why are hearts shaped like this ❤️ instead of human hearts?


is it a symbolism thing, or something completely different?

In: 14

The heart shape we all recognize, and use originated back to an ancient plant known as the silphium. It was a species of giant fennel grown on the North African coastline near the Greek city of Cyrene. It was used as medicine, a flavoring spice, but more importantly as birth control. Because of this it was linked with sex and of course love.


Yes, this is actually symbolic (and not of a butt). The shape seems to actually be in reference to the seed or fruit of a plant called “silphium” which the Ancient Greeks and Romans used for its contraceptive properties. Obviously women working the oldest profession (prostitution) would have been quite fond of this plant and the seed or fruit became associated with love and love-making.

So in essence when you hand a heart-shaped Valentine to your crush it is basically like handing them an ancient condom.

Contrary to some other comments here, it is *not* reliably known that the heart shape represents the silphium plant. It could indeed be that way. However, it also might represent some other plant part; possibly a fig leaf; which is also associated with sexuality by way of the Adam & Eve legend.

However, [there are also premodern representations of the heart symbol with an aorta,](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_symbol#/media/File:Sacr%C3%A9-Coeur_K%C3%B6ln.jpg) suggesting that it was intended to represent the anatomical heart.


“It’s based on silphium” is possible, but there’s not really any evidence for it. I consider it to be an Internet urban legend. We don’t have anything from the Romans comparing silphium to hearts, or particularly associating the shape with love. Plus, there’s the fact that Ancient depictions of silphium tended to depict a large stalk, not a “heart symbol”.

It’s a pretty natural shape to use for stuff, since a lot of leaves are shaped in that way, and there’s use of heart symbols in art going back a very long time.

The “heart shape” becomes associated with romance and the heart in the Late Medieval period. Note that this is centuries after the extinction of silphium and the societies that used it. The very first depiction of a human heart in a shape that looks like the heart shape is in a French story called the *Romance of the Pear*. So some art historians think that the “heart” is actually supposed to be a pear, which unsurprisingly is somewhat central to the story. It’s possible that later artists just liked the shape and ran with it.

Also, let’s be real, the heart shape does look kind of like a heart: pointy bottom, two lobes. It’s not that big a stretch, especially when you add a big artery sticking out the top like some depictions do. Don’t forget that art of the time tended to be highly stylized, though we can then ask why Renaissance artists continued to use the more stylized heart even as they otherwise turned more towards realism.