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

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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
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

tug at the heartstrings

or

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
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

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
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
See also:
References in periodicals archive ?
Super charities tugged at the heartstrings of Nuneaton's first ever Dragon's Den panel- and inspired them to give out more funds than expected
We splashed on a story under the headline 'How Is My Baby?' which really tugged at the heartstrings.
I'd had several offers to manage back in the Premier League, I've spoken to several clubs in different countries but the only place that has really tugged at the heartstrings and made me think this is the right club has been Sociedad."
"I've also spoken to several clubs in different countries, but the only place that has really tugged at the heartstrings and made me think this is the right club has been Sociedad."
But Kong's sad demise has tugged at the heartstrings of bassist Dave Swift, originally from Wolverhampton, who recalled the 20ft beast from his childhood in the early 1970s.
Millar said: "Morton tugged at the heartstrings and I have a lot of history there after five years with the club.
The Crimea were less interesting, although their slow cover of John Lennon's Jealous Guy tugged at the heartstrings.
Newborn grew from mellow beginnings to become a thundering epic, while My Very Best and Great Expectations tugged at the heartstrings with their honesty and passion.
A LETTER in a magazine eight years ago tugged at the heartstrings of a North Wales woman.
To bring back shoppers, mall managers launched a retail strategy that tugged at the heartstrings, not purse strings.
Faldo's response to last week's dismal seasonal bow - "there are no surprises any more, just disappointments" - tugged at the heartstrings.
Another song which tugged at the heartstrings, Lucille, shot Kenny into the upper echelons and he has not looked back since.
Sure, Clarke's courageous Ryder Cup performances so soon after the death of his wife tugged at the heartstrings. But have punters who forced him down to 8-11 favourite been fooled by the emotion-charged atmosphere at the K Club?
And the manner of his triumph earned a standing ovation as it tugged at the heartstrings of his many supporters in the Barbican Centre crowd.
The manner of the colt's victory was startling enough, but the tale behind it tugged at the heartstrings to breaking point.