Are wedding rings worn on the left ring finger because it is the only finger which has a vein that connects directly to the heart?
It’s a Myth.
Every finger (and every toe) connects to the series of arteries and veins leading to and from the heart. The name Vena amoris, which used to describe the concept of a specially-connected finger, dates back centuries. The idea that a vein (or nerve) connects the heart to a single finger, however, can be traced back to ancient Egypt.
In a 1917 book on the history of rings, author George Frederick Kunz cites the betrothal of Lucrezia Borgia (daughter of Pope Alexander VI) in 1493:
“…twin gold rings set with precious stones were given, one to be put on the fourth finger of the fiancee’s left hand, ‘whose vein leads to the heart’ as the record specifies…”
Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius, usually referred to simply as Macrobius, was a Roman writer popular around the turn of the 5th century. In book VII of his Saturnalia, he wrote of a nerve which connected the heart to the ring finger, a belief which apparently originated from Egypt:
De hac ipsa quaestione sermo quidam ad nos ab Aegypto venerat, de quo dubitabam fabulamne an veram rationem vocarem: sed libris anatomicorum postea consultis verum repperi, nervum quendam de corde natum priorsum pergere usque ad digitum manus sinistrae minimo proximum, et illic desinere inplicatum ceteris eiusdem digiti nervis, et ideo visum veteribus ut ille digitus anula tamquam corona circumdaretur.
A poorly-translated version reads:
“…From this very question to a discussion we had come from Egypt, of which I was doubtful whether the true nature fabulamne? call, but after consultation with the anatomy books but I found the nerve to go up to the finger of the left hand born from the heart of a small neighbor, and stop there twisted the fingers of the same ailment, and he was seen as old as the ring finger around the crown.”
(We’d appreciate a better translation of this passage if any of our readers are familiar with Latin!)
Over time the concept of a “love vein” or “vein of love” evolved into the wearing of a ring on a specific finger.
As you can see from the Google Trends chart below, search interest in the topic has been fairly consistent over the past 5 years, with a significant surge in November 2010.
The idea that wedding rings are worn on the ring finger because that digit uniquely connects directly to the heart is an ancient myth which found its way into modern culture. Such myths of a vein or nerve directly connecting a single finger to the heart originated before modern understanding of the circulatory and nervous systems.
- Rings for the finger (George Frederick Kunz, JB Lippincott company, 1917)
- Vena amoris (Wikipedia)
- Macrobius: The Saturnalia
Updated December 8, 2015
Originally published June 2013