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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 the/(one's) heartstrings

To elicit a very strong emotional reaction in one, especially a feeling of sympathy, pity, or compassion. I don't know why, but that piece of music always plays on my heartstrings. That documentary really plays on the heartstrings—you'll want to adopt all of those kids after watching it. Can't anyone else see that all her tears and wailing are just an act to play on people's heartstrings.
See also: heartstring, on, play

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 ?
Frankie and the Heartstrings, who will be appearing at Arc this weekend along with a host of other music acts
We wanted to do that as kind of recognition of the support we have had since we launched the Kickstarter campaign," said Dave, who plays drums in Frankie and the Heartstrings, when his leg isn't in a brace ("charity football injury").
She said: "It was great to finally release Heartstrings and see everyone's reaction, as it was the first thing I've done in a long time.
Morley, pictured, sure knows how to pen a song with the lyrics matching the music's organic strength as he pulls hard on the heartstrings.
The past stories of some of the contestants and songs performed on the hit ITV1 show pull too hard on the heartstrings of the 32-year-old professional footballer.
Arts Umbrella has named Nancy Golden as chairwoman of the organization's 2011-12 HeartStrings fundraising campaign.
But it was his work with the Heartstrings Community Foundation that won him this award.
The result is deeply effecting, skirting sentimentality, but not quite falling into it, but tugging at heartstrings nonetheless.
I received a letter from Ronnie and Grace Sinclair from Thurso about a lovely idea they had called Heartstrings.
This Valentine's Day weekend, David Taylor Dance Theatre of Edgewater, CO, teams up with the Colorado Chamber Players to strum on heartstrings and celebrate the passion of love.
When Lenny Moore settles into his usual seat today on the 40-yard line at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, he promises that when the visitors in the white uniforms with the distinctive blue horseshoe on their helmets run out of the tunnel, he won't have to fasten down his heartstrings.
VILLAGES OF KENYA: Heartstrings Theatre Ensemble of Kenya is working to organize its third annual "Villages of Kenya" festival this fall.
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.