Today someone asked me about the etymology of heroine. Turns out it was originally a trademark by the Friedrich Bayer Company, which registered the term in 1898 for their hot-selling morphine product. But where does this come from? Well, there's the obvious suffix -ine, which is a word-forming affix in chemistry, and hero- is exactly what it seems: through German, it comes from the Greek word heros, meaning "hero" (and also the root of our modern words heroine and hero). This might seem weird, but the connection actually makes quite a bit of sense, as the word is linked to the increased feelings of self-esteem you supposedly get from being high on heroin. Greek heros is of undetermined origin, but some etymologists have reconstructed it to the Proto-Indo-European root ser, meaning "to protect". Because real heroes and heroines protect you from heroin.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University, where I founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. I also have disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.