General English


  • noun the upper front part of the body between the neck and stomach.

Origin & History of “chest”

Chest comes ultimately from Greek kístē ‘box, basket’. In Latin this became cista (source of English cistern (13th c.)). In prehistoric times the word was borrowed into Germanic as *kistā, which was the source of Old English cest. This still meant ‘box’, a sense which continued in isolation until the 16th century, when it was first applied to the ‘thorax’ – the basis of the metaphor presumably being that the ribs enclose the heart and lungs like a box. It has since replaced breast as the main term for the concept.