Where does the expression “cross one’s heart” come from and What does it mean?

Crossing one’s heart is the most binding oath of childhood; a solemn assurance of truthfulness, usually accompanied by motions of the right hand forming a cross over the general vicinity of the testator’s heart.

Probably the gesture and its binding nature were originally based upon the familiar Catholic sign of the cross.

In our own Protestant childhood in Ohio, and my wife says the same was the case in Massachusetts, the oath was often accompanied by the irreverent doggerel: “Cross my heart and hope to die, And hope the cat’ll spit in your eye.”

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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