Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Heroine and Heroin

Greg asked if there was a connection between heroin and heroine.  My immediate reaction was, that doesn’t sound likely. I was wrong.

Traditionally, a heroine is a woman who performs courageous and noble deeds. These days, of course, many people prefer to use the word hero to designate both male and female role models. Heroin is an addictive narcotic that was compounded and named by a German drug company in the late 19th century. Some chemist chose the name heroin because users of the drug often experience an inflated sense of self, thinking themselves capable of performing heroic deeds.

Both heroine and heroin are derived from the ancient Greek ρως (heros), a person of great strength favored by the gods. The suffix –ine, signifying “of the nature of” was added to both, but abbreviated to –in by the German chemist to conform with the suffix used to designate neutral chemical substances.

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