[ hahrt-throb ]
/ ˈhɑrtˌθrɒb /
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a rapid beat or pulsation of the heart.
a passionate or sentimental emotion.
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Origin of heartthrob

First recorded in 1840–50; heart + throb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does heartthrob mean?

A heartthrob is someone, especially a pop culture figure, who is considered an object of romantic desire. Traditionally, the word has been almost exclusively applied to young men.

The word is especially used in the phrase teen heartthrob, referring to a young person, especially a musician or actor, who is the object of teenagers’ romantic affection, especially that of teenage girls. Teen heartthrobs are sometimes teenagers themselves, though they’re often in their 20s or sometimes even older.

This popular sense of heartthrob comes from the use of the word to mean a sweetheart—someone’s romantic partner.

Less commonly, heartthrob can be used as another word for a rapid heartbeat. Based on this meaning, it can also be used figuratively to refer to a passionate emotion. Neither of these senses are commonly used anymore.

Example: Every generation has a heartthrob idolized for their good looks, talent, and charismatic personality.

Where does heartthrob come from?

The first records of heartthrob come from around the 1800s, but its original sense referred to what someone’s heart does when it experiences a strong emotion—it starts throbbing, or beating faster. And this is what happens when fans see a person they consider a heartthrob—their heart throbs and swoons with affection. The pop culture sense of the word referring to an attractive teen idol is first recorded around the 1920s. The term arose in parallel with forms of mass media that allowed young viewers to idolize the attractive young person they saw on screen.

Who is your generation’s teen heartthrob? In the 1920s, there was silent film star Rudolph Valentino. In the ’40s, it was Frank Sinatra singing in front of screaming bobbysoxers. The screaming continued with Elvis Presley in the ’50s and the Beatles in the ’60s. Fast-forward to the ’80s, when most teen comedy movies had their own heartthrob. In the ’90s, it was Leonardo DiCaprio and a lot of boy band members—a trend that has continued with the popularity of K-pop. The related term teen idol isn’t limited to just young men.

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What are some synonyms for heartthrob?

What are some words that share a root or word element with heartthrob

What are some words that often get used in discussing heartthrob?


How is heartthrob used in real life?

Heartthrob is most commonly applied to famous young men considered attractive.



Try using heartthrob!

Is heartthrob used correctly in the following sentence?

He was a teen heartthrob in the ’80s, but he matured beyond the romantic comedies of his early years.

How to use heartthrob in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for heartthrob


an object of infatuation
a heart beat
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012