• heroin •
Pronunciation: her-ro-win • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (No plural)
Meaning: An addictive analgesic drug derived from morphine, used as a narcotic that produces euphoria, diacetylmorphine.
Notes: Today's Good Word dominates its derivational relatives in that it occurs far more frequently than the noun or verb that accompany it. The rare abstract noun is heroinism "addiction to heroin" and the even more rare verb is heroinize "treat with heroin". This word is used more frequently in the sense "make a heroine".
In Play: Today's word is not given to metaphorical tinkering: "The heroin addiction epidemic in the US has now been overshadowed by the prescription opioid epidemic." Heroin is too specifically defined to allow figurative usage: "A longer, higher fence between the US and Mexico will not slow the heroin traffic since traffickers have two oceans over which to go around any fence."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from German Heroin, coined in 1898 as trademark registered by Friedrich Bayer & Co. for their morphine substitute. According to tradition the word was coined with the chemical suffix -in added to Greek heros "hero", presumably because of the euphoric feeling the drug provides. However, no evidence for this connection has been found thus far. English borrowed hero from French héros, inherited from Latin heros "hero, demigod", which Latin borrowed from Greek heros. Heros probably meant "defender, protector" from PIE root ser- "to watch over, protect" originally. If so, it is connected with Latin servare "to watch, keep safe", that we find which we find in English borrowings from Latin like observe, preserve, and conservative.