She’s a mythological priestess and a virtuous Shakespearean character. But this one is still a lot to live up to!
Thanks to Natalie for suggesting Hero as Name of the Day.
Heroes didn’t don capes and tights until fairly recently. The word entered English use in the fourteenth century, to refer to an exceptionally strong and brave man. By the seventeenth century, we also find the feminine form heroine, and lead characters in plays were referred to as heroes. Not until the 20th century did a hero become a sandwich.
The word comes from the Greek heros and originally meant something closer to demi-god. After all, the Greeks had plenty of tales of gods fathering children by mortal women and bestowing superhuman powers as christening gifts.
But the first Hero’s story is a tragedy. One of Aphrodite’s priestesses, Hero lived in a tower across a channel. Every night, she would light a lantern and her beloved, Leander, would swim across to see her. All went well for a while. But then, on a dark and stormy night, a breeze extinguished Hero’s lantern and Leander drowned in the choppy waters. When Hero realized her lover’s fate, she leapt to her death.
It’s not a happy story, but it one that has captured popular imagination for centuries. Ovid, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Johnson and Lord Byron all penned versions of their stories. Countless paintings depict their tale. But it is William Shakespeare who not only referenced the tragedy, but named one of his characters Hero, too.
In Much Ado About Nothing, Hero is a modest, well-behaved and well-born girl about to be married. Treachery leads to heartache and Hero is jilted at the altar. Word is given out that Hero died of shock, and eventually the bad guys are caught. Her doubting fiance is overcome with grief, but then there’s another plot twist and all ends happily.
Don’t you just love Shakespeare?
Anyhow, Much Ado About Nothing was penned circa 1598 or even earlier. The word hero might have been in use, but the lovers’ story was probably so well known that it still sounded like a girl’s name.
In fact, there were a handful of ancient male Heros – the first century Greek mathematician and engineer, Hero of Alexandria is the best known. Today, spell it Hiro and it is a Japanese male name. Often short for longer names like Hiroshi, Hiroaki, Hirohi or Hirohito, the name is very familiar thanks to television hit Heroes where Hiro Nakamura can travel through time.
While Hero and Hiro are legitimate names with history, I can’t help think that you’d be setting your child up for a lifetime of frustration.
Hero is close to other goddess names like Hera, Juno and Clio – choices that are still unexpected, but don’t suggest that your kiddo should leap tall buildings in a single bound. Then again, names that once seemed outrageous – Romeo, anyone? – are now in more frequent use. So never say never … but I’m not sure I’d want to risk it.
Hero is an AWESOME name, with a great history and literary pedigree. Kudos to you Hero mamas and your daughters for wearing it with pride!
I actually named my daughter Hero Elizabeth when she was born in 2008. Ever since she started Kindergarten we have always let her know that it’s OK with us if she decides to go by her middle name (as her brother does, since he is named after my husband). She’s now a rising second-grader and she loves, loves, LOVES her name. She may reconsider when she gets to middle-school age, but for now, she loves standing out.
Other kids have occasionally said, “What, like SuperHero?” To which she replies, “YES, EXACTLY like that!” Sometimes, when she introduces herself to adults and doesn’t speak up enough, they mishear it as “Kira” or ask her to repeat it, but she just stands up straight and says with confidence, “Hero, H-E-R-O.” Sometimes other adults look at me like, “That can’t be her real name,” but I just smile and nod. Occasionally, I’ll get someone who says, “Oh! Like in _Much Ado_!” and that’s when I know I’ve found an English major, lol.
She was SO excited when Big Hero Six came out the Christmas before she turned seven. She is tall for her age, and she would go around telling people, “It’s my favorite movie, because I’m big, I’m Hero, and I’m six!” Hilarious.
All in all, her dad and I are really pleased with her name and, rather than it being something she feels she has to live up to, we talk to her about the character traits that heroes in movies and books have and how she already has those qualities. Heroes aren’t just strong — although my Hero *is* strong — they’re also brave, kind, and compassionate. And so is she.
I ran across this article while I was googling to see how many other girls were named Hero in 2008, but couldn’t find any data. I was shocked at the horrible comments some people tweeted at Mylene Klass when she named her baby girl Hero in 2011. (Cree Summer also has a little girl named Hero born around that time, but I didn’t see any outcry against that for some reason. I suspect that’s because white people don’t tend to care what nonwhite people name their kids.)
I hope my experiences help reassure some of those who expressed concern about “saddling” a kid with a name she may hate. (I know lots of Jennifers who despise having such a common name, BTW.) I get that unusual names aren’t for everyone, but it’s possible to dislike a name and not be rude about it.
I was googling around for the same thing and have had the same experience (my daughter is six). She really loves comic books and when we go to conventions people get very excited and ask if she’s named after the character in Y: The Last Man (she’s not, but that’s okay.). Occasionally we get snobby looks from adults, but other kids have never even thought to make fun of her name.
Anyone who’s been to a park these days should know by now that there are no more weird names, everyone has something different. The only downside I’ve encountered has been constantly having to spell h-e-r-o out to people, which I didn’t not expect.
Lou @ Mer de noms says
I really started to come around to the idea of using Hero, but as a nickname for either Catherine or Henrietta.
Hero for Henrietta is pretty genius. And for Catherine, maybe, too – though Catherine is one of those names where everyone assumes they know the short form, and you have to be far more insistent to get a non-obvious nn to catch on.
Lou @ Mer de noms says
It’s a good job I’m a stubborn soul then 😉
Hey, I call my kid Clio so I’m very, very supportive of anyone willing to go for an unexpected nickname! But even I failed miserably with Alexei … because my 6 year old is far more stubborn that I could ever manage.
Christina Fonseca says
Whoa! I’m ITA with photoquilty on this one! I can see using Hero only for the name of a character. Do I hear someone falling off a pedestal?
oops – I did my Name wrong last comment… I meant SophieGray (i must have got ahead of myself and thought I was typing in my email address!)
Hero’s not for me. I’d only ever consider him for a boy, but even then – he just seems a bit too much to live up to; and even borders on pretentious, to my ear. To me, despite Hero’s history he feels just like those seemingly random virtues like Justice that people have begun to think are great names for their kid.
Hiro’s fairly cool though – and he was so cute on Heros! But that show lost me after the first season or two lol 🙂
Natalie, it’s funny; I adore Cordelia & Ivy together. One of the first combos I created for Matilda was Ivy Cordelia Jane, but I couldn’t risk it coz I really wanted to name a daughter Iris!
I rather like Hero, I think the sounds are very pretty, and I like the O ending. O endings to me seem very spunky and cool. I would use Hero, I love Hiro from Heroes.
Laney McDonald says
Hiro is great…for a son, not a daughter. Hero is too much to live up to. People are gonna expect more from her.
I would probably use Hiroshi or Toshiro for a boy, and use Hiro as a nickname. If I had to use it for a girl, I would use Chihiro. That little girl in the anime movie Spirited Away is so cute, but I don’t go naming kids after cartoon characters. I’d save it for a pet.
So Hero is too much to live up to for a girl, but not a boy? Hm…not sure I like what you’re implying.
Personally, I prefer Danger as a middle name.
Emmy Jo says
When I first heard someone considering Hero as a girls’ name (on Yahoo! Answers), I thought it was crazy. Since then, it has grown on me. I do like other Greek o-enders on girls (like Clio and Juno), and Hero has such marvelous soft sounds.
It is probably safer as a middle name, and I suppose it would be hard to introduce yourself as “Hero” to everyone you meet, but I can’t help but love it.
I love Hero as a middle name, especially with Cordelia or Ivy.
Huzzah! Someone else who loves Chihiro from “Spirited Away! If I could get away with it, there’s one I’d use to get “Hero/Hiro”!
For me, I just think Hiro – I’ve had several friends with the name and it’s always going to ring Japanese and male for me.
Hero’s interesting but not my cup of meatloaf. Maybe as a middle for something calm & classic but not up front.
I like the myth and Hero’s got a great history but between the sandwich and the modern usage overall, I’d say no. But I do like it. (and Hiro is my second favorite character on Heroes). I’ll second your final thought, “never say never, but I wouldn’t risk it”.