Warm the Cockles of Your Heart is one of the warm and interesting idioms in the English language. It refers to the feeling of pleasure, affection, sympathy or a similar emotion. The heart is accepted to be the source of emotions for most of us and any feeling of love or warmth originates from deep within. So, while one can easily see the association between warm feelings and the heart, the word cockles is what needs to be explained.
The origin of the word cockles is not very clear. The earliest reference to the idiom appeared some time in the seventeenth century. Cockles are a kind of bivalve mollusk, which are generally heart-shaped and have ribbed shells. Cockles formed an essential part of the food for the British during the early times. In all probability the cockleshell which resembled the shape of the heart may have resulted in the expression-“cockles of the heart”.
Another explanation to the origin of the idiom “Warm the Cockles of Your Heart” can be attributed to its Latin roots. The ventricles of the heart are often called cochleae cordis in Latin with the word cordis originating from the Latin cor, meaning heart.
The word cockle also refers to a chamber in a kiln. So in the idiom “Warm the Cockles of Your Heart”, it may be referring to the four chambers of the heart (two ventricles and two atria). The cockle or chambers of a kiln are generally supposed to be cold and they need to be ignited to function properly. In a similar fashion, that a pleasant incident or experience ignites and warms the cockles of your heart.
The heart is generally associated with strong emotions of love fear or excitement, and when one experiences such emotion he can literally hear his heart thumping faster. When a thing “Warms the Cockles of Your Heart”, it refers to something good or delightful that makes your heart beat fast and makes you happy.
Another theory to the usage of the idiom “Warm the Cockles of Your Heart” may be due to the word cockle having close association to the French word coquille which means shell. So in all probability the comparison of the human heart with its shell-shaped chambers must have been natural. This is an offshoot of the fashionable practice of adopting foreign words in a language.
So the word cockles used in the idiom “Warm the Cockles of Your Heart” may be more in a metaphorical sense as there is no medical evidence to label the cockles of the heart. But it is sufficient to remember that anything pleasant and nostalgic is enough fill you with delight and Warm the Cockles of Your Heart”