Learn English – Is ‘hero’ applicable to females


There was the following sentence in today’s (June 4) New York Times written by its Op-Ed columnist, Nickolas Kristof under the headline, “There’s a Kind of Hush.”

“Aung San Suu Kyi should be one of the heroes of modern times.
Instead, as her country imposes on the Rohingya Muslim minority an
apartheid that would have made white supremacists in South Africa
blush, she bites her tongue.


I understand “ hero” here is used as a generic of brave or great persons to cover both male and female 'heroes' ?

However, OALED defines ‘hero’ specifically as male, as;

  1. A person, especially a man, who is admired by many people for doing sth brave or good.
  2. The main male character in a story, novel, film / movie etc.
  3. A person, especially a man, that you admire because of a particular quality or skill that they have.

CED also defines ‘hero’ as;

  1. A very brave person, often a man, that a lot of people admire.

  2. The main man in a book or movie.

Can I apply ‘hero’ when I’m refering to Aung San Suu Kyi singly as “Aung San Suu Kyi is the hero of Burma”?

Best Answer

I think that this extract can help: Hero:

Many writers now consider hero, long restricted to men in the sense "a person noted for courageous action," to be a gender-neutral term. It is used to refer to admired women as well as men in respected publications, as in this quotation from The Washington Post: "Already a national hero in her economically troubled South Korea, . . . [Se Ri] Pak is packing galleries at [golf] tournaments stateside." The word heroine is still useful, however, in referring to the principal female character of a fictional work: Jane Eyre is a well-known literary heroine. Ninety-four percent of Usage Panelists accept this usage.

The increasing usage of hero referring to women is also shown in Ngram.

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