It seems japanese have a lot of words for "hero". In anime series, you hear all these words translated as "hero". Do all of them mean the same, or do they actually have nuances?

1 Answer 1


ヒーロー and 英雄 mean almost the same thing. They refer to someone who is respected for accomplishing something through bravery or other (mainly physical) ability. Historical ヒーロー/英雄 include Alexander the Great and King Arthur. In fiction, Marvel characters are ヒーロー/英雄. Nationally popular real-life athletes such as Shohei Otani are also recognized as ヒーロー.

勇者 is mainly recognized as a term of fantasy and role-playing games, and its definition varies from work to work. In some titles, it's just one of many character classes, alongside 剣士 (swordsman) or 魔法使い (mage). For example, in Elden Ring, a 勇者 ("hero") looks like this, and in Fire Emblem, 勇者 ("hero") is a promoted class of the mercenary class. But in many works, 勇者 is the title given by the king or God to someone who has the mission to save the world. The most stereotypical 勇者 imagined by Japanese people is 勇者 depicted in the Dragon Quest series, who travels around the world on a mission to eventually defeat the evil lord.

勇士 is a term used in different contexts to refer to different jobs or titles. In general, it refers to a type of people who are not 兵士 (soldiers) but fight bravely with swords, axes, or spears. Their social status may be high or low, and they may or may not be respected by others. In many works, 勇士 may be closer to "warrior" or "gladiator" than "hero".

  • Interesting that you choose Alexander the Great and King Arthur of examples of ヒーロー/英雄. To an English/European/Western mind, neither of those two men would be considered ‘heros’. Staying in Arthurian legend, Lancelot could be called a hero, but not Arthur. It sounds very odd to describe any legendary king/emperor/equivalent as a hero, for some reason… perhaps their status implies heroicness? I don’t know. If a ruler saved a child from a burning building, you might still call them a hero for that, but not for their status or accomplishments as a ruler. Commented Apr 8 at 1:45
  • @JanusBahsJacquet It's true that being a ruler does not necessarily mean being a hero, but these two people had great military achievements, so couldn't we refer to that aspect when calling them heroes? Still, it's fine to replace them with someone who you think is typically considered a historical hero(ine). Jeanne d'Arc, maybe?
    – naruto
    Commented Apr 8 at 2:15
  • No, I don’t think so. Perhaps somewhat illogically, great military achievements as a general trait don’t really ‘count’ for rulers. An individual show of extreme bravery in a particular battle might, but just being a ruler who has conquered and been successful in military matters doesn’t really affect hero-ness. Jeanne d’Arc would definitely count, though. I think a big part of the ‘hero’ is to do with exceeding expectations: historic rulers were expected to defeat enemies and conquer new lands. Doing so didn’t make them heroes; not doing so made them (relative) failures. Commented Apr 8 at 9:22
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I just looked english wikipedia "King Arthur is a legendary king of Britain, and a hero and central figure in the medieval literary tradition known as the Matter of Britain." Here we also hear him mentioned as hero
    – Pablo
    Commented Apr 8 at 12:28
  • BTW, if you google "king arthur hero" it returns 28,500,000 results
    – Pablo
    Commented Apr 8 at 12:29

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