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tear/tug/pull at/on (one's)/the heartstrings

To elicit strong feelings of sympathy or fondness. I don't know why, but that piece of music always tears at my heartstrings. That documentary really pulls on the heartstrings—you'll want to adopt all of those kids after watching it.
See also: heartstring, on, pull, tear, tug

play on someone's heartstrings

Fig. to attempt to get sympathy from someone. She is crying so she can play on your heartstrings and try to get you to take her home.
See also: heartstring, on, play

tug at the heartstrings


tug at your heartstrings

COMMON If someone or something tugs at the heartstrings or tugs at your heartstrings, they cause you to feel pity or sadness. Miss Cookson knows exactly how to tug at readers' heartstrings. Note: You can use verbs such as pull and pluck instead of tug. Unlike many charity campaigns, it doesn't pull at the heartstrings. Note: You can also omit the word at. McLachlan tugs the heartstrings with a succession of ballads. Note: Heartstrings is used in many other structures and expressions with similar meanings. This is not a movie that aims for the heartstrings. Note: In medieval times, it was believed that `heartstrings' were tendons which supported the heart.
See also: heartstring, tug

tug at somebody’s ˈheartstrings

make somebody feel strong emotions of sadness and pity: Advertisers often use babies and children to tug at your heartstrings.
See also: heartstring, tug
References in periodicals archive ?
These findings are based on a retrospective analysis of 414 consecutive patients who underwent OPCAB with one or more proximal anastomoses constructed using HEARTSTRING technology at University Hospital Regensburg, Germany.
The HEARTSTRING III system features an improved seal loader and delivery device for fast, easy placement.
Ever dependable but never expendable, Frankie and The Heartstrings.
Heartstrings is their fourth album and the first they have recorded in their adopted hometown of London - laying down the tracks in just 11 days.
The HeartStrings campaign helps the organization maintain, improve and enhance its programs, while providing the organization with opportunities to implement new programs to meet the growing needs of the community.
Heartstrings is an animal welfare appeal that has been operating for some time in the Highland and Islands.
She still knows how to pluck heartstrings with beautiful melodies, especially on a song like "The Great Divide," and she offers an equal dollop of hope ("Joy") to balance out her well-aimed raps on today's deadliest lies and sins.
A quick, surprisingly well-written read, Confessions will pull at your heartstrings.
Her move to a residential school tears at our heartstrings as our expectations grow for her future.
It promises to tug heartstrings and raise public awareness of multiple sclerosis.
But old hands like more senior magistrate Val (Eluned Jones) have had their heartstrings tugged once too often and plead caution.
We cannot know all of the practical and soulful implications of what is happening in this western diocese, and yet we mourn for each and every Anglican parishioner whose heartstrings have been pulled by these events.
But after reading the caption and learning that the pill consists of "melted vinyl from every Diana Ross and the Supremes Top 40 record released," and that the work's title is When Your Heartstrings Break, I Can Mend Them Back (The Supreme Solution), 1998, one might be willing see the piece as an encapsulation, as it were, of the consolatory promise of a certain kind of popular music.