- English from 1650. The sense of "female lead character" is from 1715.
- A female hero.
- A female lead character.
1905, Baroness Emmuska Orczy, chapter 2, in The Affair at the Novelty Theatre:
- Miss Phyllis Morgan, as the hapless heroine dressed in the shabbiest of clothes, appears in the midst of a gay and giddy throng; she apostrophises all and sundry there, including the villain, and has a magnificent scene which always brings down the house, and nightly adds to her histrionic laurels.
- 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 sex)
- Who is your favorite heroine? (answer can refer only to females)