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See also: héroïne and heroïne





Etymology 1


From Latin hērōīna, from late Ancient Greek ἡρωΐνη (hērōḯnē) (2nd century), a feminine equivalent of ἥρως (hḗrōs, hero, demigod), equivalent to hero +‎ -ine (suffix forming feminine nouns).

  • English from 1587. The sense of "female lead character" is from 1715.



heroine (plural heroines, masculine hero)

  1. A female hero.
  2. A female lead character.
Usage notes
  • In sense 1, hero, the masculine of heroine, is sometimes used, though it is still acceptable to use the feminine.
She is an American hero (or heroine).
  • Like feminine nouns formed with the suffix -ess, heroine refers only to females, whereas hero can refer to both males and females.
Who is your favorite hero? (answer can refer to either gender)
Who is your favorite heroine? (answer can refer only to females)
Alternative forms
Derived terms

Etymology 2


Partly from the noun and partly from hero +‎ -ine (suffix forming adjectives).[1]



heroine (comparative more heroine, superlative most heroine)

  1. (rare) Characteristic of a heroine; heroic.
    • 1616, D[aniel] T[uvill], “Of their outward modestie”, in Asylum Veneris, or A Sanctuary for Ladies. Iustly Protecting Them, Their Virtues, and Sufficiencies from the Foule Aspersions and Forged Imputations of Traducing Spirits., London: [] Edward Griffin for Laurence L’isle, [], page 41:
      Theoxena to free hir Siſters children and hir owne from the laſciuious embraces of King Phillip, put weapons into their weaker hands, and perſwaded them Vt imminens ludibrium morte effugerent; to reſcue themſelues by Death from imminent diſgrace, wherein ſhe had no ſooner preuailed, but with a heroine reſolution ſhe ſhewed them by hir owne example, that what ſhee had taught them, was eaſie to be done.
    • 1669, [William Wycherley], Hero and Leander, in Burlesque, London: [s.n.], page 13:
      Her Brows ſoft Fur was of a paler Dye, / Conformable to that which prettily / Peep’d on her upper Lip, and cowardly / Made shew of Heroine Virility.
    • 1702 April 28, the Borough of Great Torrington, “To the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty”, in The London Gazette, number 3810, London: [] Edw[ard] Jones [], published 14–18 May 1702, page [2], columns 1–2:
      WE Your Majesties most Loyal and Dutiful Subjects do humbly crave Leave to Condole the Death of our late Gracious Sovereign, and to Congratulate Your Majesties happy Accession to the Throne of your Royal Anceſtors; as alſo to expreſs our great Satisfaction and unſpeakable Joy for the ſame, and to thank God for preſerving and quietly ſeating on the Imperial Throne of theſe Realms a Princeſs with Heart and Affections truly Engliſh, with a Zeal for the Government in Church and State as by Law Establiſhed, truly worthy of that Royal Blood that flows to you from your Royal Grandfather King Charles the Martyr, of Immortal Memory, and with a Soul truly Great and Heroine, juſtly concerned for the Proſperity of theſe Realms, and the Peace of Europe.
    • 1795, Tate Wilkinson, The Wandering Patentee; or, A History of the Yorkshire Theatres, from 1770 to the Present Time: Interspersed with Anecdotes Respecting Most of the Performers in the Three Kingdoms, from 1765 to 1795. [], volume III, York: [] [F]or the Author, by Wilson, Spence, and Mawman: Sold by G[eorge,] G[eorge] & J[ohn] Robinson, [], page 264:
      I had once more prevailed on Mrs. Eſten to try her York friends; ſhe rather wiſhed to avoid the hazard, as ſhe rightly judged ſhe had been treated ſo very negligently, after a profuſion of praiſe and promiſe; however from my ſolicitation ſhe did break through her heroine reſolution, and once more on her return from Scotland ventured her little bark to the generoſity and pleaſure of her profeſſed friends at York.
    • 1824 February 24, Daniel O’Connell, edited by John O’Connell, The Life and Speeches of Daniel O’Connell, M.P., volume II, Dublin: [] James Duffy, []; London: C. Dolman, [], published 1846, page 507:
      How otherwise than by a violation of a pledge could he have conquered Limerick, protected as it then was by the heroine bravery of its defenders.


  1. ^ heroine, adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, launched 2000.