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“Heart of a Lion” — Meaning, Usage & Examples

“Heart of a Lion” — Meaning, Usage & Examples

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“I may not be a lion, but I am lion’s cub and I have lion’s heart.”- Elizabeth I.

An unwavering metaphor having stood against the tide of time, the “heart of a lion” can be dated back to Elizabeth I.

Used in scores of literary works, the stark comparison to a lion’s heart leaves a vivid image in the mind, which coupled with the fact that lions are highly coveted, has thus ensured that the metaphor remains relevant through all these years.

“Death was afraid of him because he had the heart of a lion.” -Arabian Proverb


What is the meaning of the expression “Heart of a Lion”?

The expression “Heart of a lion” is another way of calling one determined and brave. Prevalent in many different cultures, this simple-yet-sophisticated phrase always succeeds in capturing the attention of the audience by displaying the full extent of one’s courage and valor. 


Why is as comparison made to lions?

Stemming from the fact that lions reside at the top of the ecological food chain, lions are renowned as being “kings of the jungle”.

From their majestic mane to their roar which resonates throughout their domain, lions have been associated with courage and bravery from millennia past.

It is for this reason that lions are revered as one of the most magnificent beasts to roam the planet.

“They’re the least afraid of anything of all the predators,”  says Craig Packer, an ecologist associated with the University of Minnesota and one of the world’s foremost lion experts.

The absence of fear no matter what the circumstance may also be one of the root factors leading to the image of lions as brave.

Man naturally harbors a certain wariness to different predators- a built-in survival instinct.

Hence, the act of facing unprecedented dangers is no doubt a feat that many look up to.

The perceived courage and valor of lions even lead King Richard I of England to be nicknamed King Richard Lionheart in order to capture the extent of his immense bravery on the battlefield.

One may argue that rather than using “heart of a lion”, it may be sufficient to simply relate one to a lion itself, i.e. ”to be a lion”.

It must be noted that since ancient times, the core of any living creature has always been believed to be its heart.

As such, the notion of one having the “heart of a lion” clearly displays that the subject being discussed embodies the qualities believed to be present within lions- intrepidity.

Making full use of bold imagery to create a striking contrast to an animal, this metaphor successfully manages to grasp the full attention of the reader and place emphasis on both, the bravery, and the bold nature of the subject in discussion.


Adaptation of “Heart of a Lion” into different languages and media

Indeed, even to this day, the phrase “heart of a lion” is often incorporated into songs by lyricists due to its sheer popularity.

The popularity of this metaphor and the transfer of knowledge around the globe has led to the adaptation of this phrase into many different languages and cultures, resulting in many different variants in multitudes languages, including but not limited to Turkish and Japanese.

However, it is true that to a non-native English speaker, the use of such a phrase in daily communication will likely leave them bewildered due to the contrast between a man and an animal. 


Why using the phrase “Heart of a lion” is not as simple as it seems

Though more popular compared to similar metaphors, “heart of a lion” can often lead to ambiguity, especially when conversing with non-native English speakers, leading them befuddled.

This is due to the fact that most non-native English speakers are unaware of the context in which the metaphor is used.

As such it is best to use such metaphors only when needed and to avoid excessively using such metaphors in day-to-day use.


How to Use the Expression “Heart of a Lion”?

The metaphor, “heart of a lion” is relatively simple to use. It can be used in a wide variety of sentences to give both depth and add flair to an author’s works.

Due to its widespread popularity, it can also be employed within daily use without any communication gaps. Likewise, due to the wordplay involved, it just can as easily be used in literary works.

Examples of instances using “heart of a lion” include:

“Though she may not appear to be intimidating, I assure you, she has the heart of a lion.”

“In boxing, one of the most decisive factors in championship bouts is definitely having the heart of a lion.”

“John never gives up. If anyone has the heart of a lion, it’s gotta be him.”


Similar Phrases to “heart of a lion” and their usage

There are many phrases similar to the metaphor “a heart of a lion”. One such adjective, “lionhearted”, stems directly from the metaphor in discussion.

Like “a heart of a lion”, to be lionhearted means to be brave and determined.

One of the ways in which this can be used is: “Alex may appear to be very nonchalant, but on the seas, he is the most lion-hearted captain I have ever come across”

Similarly, the metaphor, “spirit of a lion” also describes one with the courage and determination that can be likened to that of lions.

An example includes: “The unified boxing cruiserweight champion has shown that he possesses the spirit of a lion on multiple title defenses”

Lastly, to simply call one a lion, “…like a lion” also means saying that one has the defining qualities of a lion, that is their valor and steadfastness.

A common example would be: “When push comes to shove and the going gets tough, you can always rely on Ross because he is determined as a lion”



In conclusion, one must keep in mind that though versatile and artistic, like any other phrase, overusing this too will lead to stagnation and the withdrawal of the reader’s interest.

In order to retain the attention of the audience, it is necessary that metaphors be used sparingly to increase their impact on the overall message being conveyed.