What does “hero” mean?

Hero definition
hero: 1) a person who is greatly admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities; 2) a person who is greatly admired
—Merriam-Webster

Hero etymology
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, hero arrived in English in the late fourteenth century. It came from the Greek word heros, which meant demi-god. When it entered English, it meant a man of superhuman strength or physical courage.

Who is a hero? What does it take to be a hero?
Here in the United States, it feels like we are on hero overload. It seems that every soldier coming back from serving in the war on terror is deemed a hero. But what if they had a desk job and never saw combat? What if their “great or brave acts” were scrubbing down naval ships? Does that make them a hero? Should they be greatly admired?

We recently witnessed an act on the other side of the war on terror with the attack in Paris on the staff of the Charlie Hebdo magazine. In western media, the attackers were portrayed as villains, as anti-heroes. But, do the people who believe in their cause not view them oppositely, as heroes?

Is heroism subjective?
In a 2014 article for The Huffington Post, author Rob Cipriano describes the qualities of a hero as these:

A hero is someone who “we” determine to have demonstrated behaviors and  decisions that are ethically and emotionally worthy of our awe. We see in them something we think is not in us. Given similar conditions, we “think” we might not make the same moves and decisions they do, so we place them in an elevated place in society or in our minds. What is a hero? Someone who inspires us by their example. Someone who moves us emotionally to connect with them at some level in order for us develop a connection with them. We may want to idolize them or place them in high personal regard. We may   want to connect with them in a personal way by focusing on them to garner  their strength or will-power.

Then, it seems, everyone can have their own definition of hero based on the qualities they deem to be worthy of admiration.

So, what is it?
We can read all the definitions and descriptions we want, but I don’t think it gets us any closer to a universal template of hero. It seems to me that a hero is whichever person you want it to be. But, I think we should all think hard about what qualities we want to attach to our own definition.

What do you think? What qualities do you think it takes to become a hero? Who are your heroes? Leave me a comment. I’d love to know.

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One thought on “What does “hero” mean?

  1. I’d like to know when (if) to capitalize a military rank when used in dialog, e.g. “I told you, sergeant, (Sergeant?) to clean those rifles!” or “Yes, captain (Captain?) I’ll get right on it.”

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