You may have guessed by the title that the word we’ll be looking at in this post is heart. Some Maldivians may have already thought about how there might be a connection between heart and the Dhivehi word ހިތް (Hiy) because they sound kind of similar and they mean the same thing. I can tell you that yes, these words are related. But before getting into all that, let’s first explore the concept of heart.
What is Heart?
The word heart is used to refer to the muscle that pumps blood around a person’s (or animal’s) body. Beyond this, it has several other meanings which show us the significance of this organ in our culture. The heart represents the soul, will, desire, intellect and is thought of as the source of emotions. Consider the following examples:
- When people are being irrational, they are said to be thinking with their hearts.
- When something is not to be taken seriously (and therefore not causing negative emotions), it is said to be lighthearted.
- When an emotion is particularly deep or sincere, it is heartfelt.
- When someone does something with total commitment, they do it wholeheartedly.
- When someone experiences a really strong negative emotion like sorrow or grief, they are heartbroken.
- When someone doesn’t care about other people’s feelings, they are heartless.
The physical heart is at the centre of our physical bodies and all the other meanings are central to our non-physical essence. For this reason, the word heart also refers to the centre of something, physical or otherwise.
Despite all the grandiose meanings that we’ve given to the word heart, actual hearts, like most internal organs, are kind of disgusting.
The Etymological Connection
Heart comes from the Old English heorte which comes the Proto-Germanic *Herton, which comes the Proto-Indo-European *kerd.
From *kerd we get the Sanskrit हृदय (hrdaya), and from हृदय we get the Dhivehi word ހިތް (Hiy).
The etymological tree has many branches which often get tangled up with each other. This is a metaphorical way of saying that *kerd is the source of words in many languages (not just Dhivehi and English) and these languages usually interact with and influence each other.
In linguistics, a doublet refers to two words which sound different but have the same etymological root. Let’s have a look at some heart-related doublets.
I said before that one of the meanings of heart is the centre of something; in other words, its core. The word core comes from the Old French coeur, which comes from the Latin word cor. Both these words mean heart. Cor, as you may have already guessed, comes from the PIE *kerd.
Also from Cor comes the word cordial, meaning “warm and friendly” or “strongly felt”, with the literal meaning “of the heart”. The Germanic equivalent of this word is heartfelt. Cordial as a noun originally meant “a food or drink that stimulates the heart”, but in modern times it refers to a sweet concentrated drink.
Another word which comes from Cor is courage, which means “bravery” or “inner strength”. The closest Germanic equivalent is heartiness. A related archaic word hearty (typically used in Pirate-talk) means “a brave or good fellow”.
Getting away from the Latin branch, PIE *kerd also gave way to the Greek word καρδιά (kardia) which entered English as the prefix cardio-. Words with this prefix typically come from the medical field, and only refer to the heart as something physical. For example, cardiology is the study of heart; cardioectomy is the removal of the heart; cardiovascular refers to the entire circulatory system. Pure Germanic equivalents don’t exist for these words (or if they do, I couldn’t find them). However, if I were to coin Germanic words, they might be heartlore for cardiology, outhearting for cardioectomy, and hearthosish (heart-hose-ish) for cardiovascular.
The heart being the seat of emotions and the source of love is pretty much a universal concept. So it’s no surprise that these ideas are also found in Dhivehi. Here are some Dhivehi heart-expressions:
- ހިތްވުން (Hiyvun) which literally means “heart happening” or “heart existing” is used to express a desire to do something, usually with the implication that the desire is passive or involuntary. It’s a hard concept to explain because technically all desires are involuntary. Consider the difference between “I want to eat” and “I feel like eating”. ހިތްވުން is more like the latter.
- ހިތްހަމަޖެހުން (Hiyhamajehun) literally means “heart being acceptable” but it is used to mean “to be satisfied”.
- ހިތްހެޔޮކުރުން (Hiyheyokurun) literally means “making heart enough”. This expression is often used to comfort someone when a person is going away for a long time. It is a way of telling them not to let the departure take too great an emotional toll.
- ހިތްވަރު (Hiyvaru) literally means “heart strength”. It can mean “bravery”, “courage” or “endurance” amongst others.
- ހިތަށްއެރުން (Hithah-erun) literally means “getting into the heart”. It is used to express involuntary thought such as the initial reaction to something.
The scientific vocabulary of Dhivehi is much smaller than that of Greek or Latin. However, it’s still possible to come up with Dhivehi equivalents for words relating to the physical heart:
- ހިތްއިލްމު (Hiy-ilmu – “Heart knowledge”) – Cardiology
- ހިތާއިލޭހޮޅިގެ (Hithaaleyholheege – “Of the heart and blood vessels”) – Cardiovascular
- ހިތްނެރުން (Hiynerun – “Heart removal”) – Cardioectomy
- ހިތްހުއްޓުން (Hiyhuttun – “Heart stopping”) – Cardiac arrest
- ބޭރުހިތް (Beyruhiy – “Outside heart”) – Ectopia cordis
- ހަރުހިތްބަލި (Haruhiybali* – “Hard heart illness”) – Cardiosclerosis
- ހިތްވިހަ (Hiyviha – “Heart poison”) – Cardiotoxin
- ހިތްފަރުވާ (Hiyfaruvaa – “Heart cure”) – Cardiotonic
- ހިތްކެފުން (Hiykefun – “Heart cutting”) – Cardiotomy
- މަތީހިތްކޮޓަރި (Matheehiykotari – “Upper heart room”) – Atrium
- ތިރީހިތްކޮޓަރި (Thireehiykotari – “Lower heart room”) – Ventricle
Someone please make these words official. People are already starting to say ކާޑިއޮލޮޖީ and ކާޑިއޯވެސްކިއުލާ, and it’s already annoying me.
*ހިތްހަރު (Hiyharu) already has a figurative meaning, so I changed the word order.
All the Languages
English was mainly influenced by French, Latin and Greek. But like I said before the word *kerd has descendants throughout the Indo-European language family. See the picture below (click for full size). Note that not all the words actually mean “heart”.
It turns out that despite being so different to each other, all these languages are connected at the heart. There’s probably a lesson for us in there somewhere.