1. also Her·a·cles or Her·a·kles (hĕrə-klēz′) Greek & Roman Mythology The son of Zeus and Alcmene, a hero of extraordinary strength who won immortality by performing 12 labors demanded by the Argive king Eurystheus.
2. A constellation in the Northern Hemisphere near Lyra and Corona Borealis.
[Latin, from Greek Hēraklēs : Hērā, Hera + kleos, fame; see kleu- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
(click for a larger image)Hercules
detail of a c. 500 bc black-figure amphora showing Hercules killing the lion of Nemea
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.