Heart of a Lion – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for an expression to emphasize someone’s courage and willingness to place other people ahead of their safety? You could say they have the “heart of a lion.” This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The expression “heart of a lion” means that someone has characteristics of bravery and courageousness in their personality, and they display it in their behavior.

A good example is a firefighter working around the time of 9/11. Many of these first responders decided to venture into the rubble and flames to save innocent victims.

You could say that these heroes have the “heart of a lion” because of their selfless behavior and willingness to risk their safety to help others. The lion is a symbol of fearlessness and valor, and by saying someone has the heart of a lion, you’re telling them that they embody these characteristics with their behavior.

The “heart of a lion” compliments people who show exemplary behavior of helping others while disregarding risk. They are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the other person has the best chance of reaching safety. It describes people who take heroic actions to save other people from dire circumstances.

Example Usage

“Tim has the heart of a lion. Did you see how he ran up to that river and dived in to save that lady without hesitation?”

“You have the heart of a lion. There is no way I would hang in there through so many customer rebuttals to close the sale.”

“I think Sipe has the heart of a lion. He was a UFC heavyweight champ, and he’s a firefighter in his spare time. The guy gives back to the community.”

“I thought you had the heart of a lion? At the first sign of trouble, you turn tail and run? That’s not courageous at all.”

“Khabib has the heart of a lion. That guy will never lose. He retired because his mom asked him to stop fighting after his father passed away.”

“You have the heart of a lion. You were there for me when I had no one else, and you stayed true to your word the whole time.”

“That man has the heart of a lion. Anyone who would risk their lives running into a burning building to save someone deserves some respect.


The expression “the heart of a lion” originates from an African saying. The lion is the “King of the Jungle” and the most respected big cat in Africa. The lion has a mythical reputation among African tribes for being powerful, defensive, and courageous.

Finnish director, Dome Karukoski, directed a film by the same name in 2013. The movie was screened at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival in the Contemporary World Cinema section.

Phrases Similar to Heart of a Lion

  • Braveheart.
  • Courageous.
  • Leadership.

Phrases Opposite to Heart of a Lion

  • Weak.
  • Scared.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • The heart of a lion.

Ways People May Say Heart of a Lion Incorrectly

The phrase has nothing to do with the heart of a lion or a lion's predatory behavior. People associate lions with courage, honor, and integrity. So, by saying someone has the heart of a lion, you’re telling them they are brave.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Heart of a Lion

You can use the expression “heart of a lion” to describe people or animals that show courage in the face of adversity or danger. The phrase suits social and professional use. You could use it at work to describe how a salesperson has the heart of a lion for staying in the deal and closing the sale.

You could say that a firefighter has a heart of a lion because they rescue people out of burning buildings. Or you could say your dog has the heart of a lion because it jumped in the water to save you when you fell overboard.

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