Latin heros, from Greek hērōs The literal meaning of the word is "protector" or "defender" and etymologically it is thought to be cognate with the name of the goddess Hera, the guardian of marriage; the postulated original forms of these words being *ἥρϝως, hērwōs, and *ἭρFα, Hērwā, respectively. It is also thought to be a cognate of the Latin verb servo (original meaning: to preserve whole) and of the Avestan verb haurvaiti (to keep vigil over), although the original proto-Indo-European root is unclear.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the Indo-European root is ser meaning "to protect". According to Eric Partridge in Origins, the Greek word Hērōs "is akin to" the Latin seruāre, meaning to safeguard. Partridge concludes, "The basic sense of both Hera and hero would therefore be 'protector'."
- Date: 14th century
- 1. A name given (as in Homer) to men of superhuman strength, courage, or ability, favored by the gods; at a later time regarded as intermediate between gods and men, and immortal.
- 2. A man distinguished by extraordinary valor and martial achievements; one who does brave or noble deeds; an illustrious warrior.
- 3. A man who exhibits extraordinary bravery, firmness, fortitude, or greatness of soul, in any course of action, or in connection with any pursuit, work, or enterprise; a man admired and venerated for his achievements and noble qualities.
- 4. The man who forms the subject of an epic; the chief male personage in a poem, play, or story; he in whom the interest of the story or plot is centered.
A hero (hera or heroine in female) (Ancient Greek: ἥρως, hḗrōs), in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion. Later, hero (male) and heroine (female) came to refer to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self sacrifice – that is, heroism – for some greater good, originally of martial courage or excellence but extended to more general moral excellence.
Stories of heroism may serve as moral examples. In classical antiquity, hero cults – veneration of deified heroes such as Heracles, Perseus, and Achilles – played an important role in Ancient Greek religion. Politicians, ancient and modern, have employed hero worship for their own apotheosis (i.e., cult of personality).