In its earliest use, the word hero was applied almost exclusively to a man. The corresponding word heroine was–and still is–reserved for a woman. Hero is still sometimes used to refer specifically to a man: British heroes and heroines. But hero is now considered to be a gender-neutral word, and is also increasingly used to refer to a woman: a list of American heroes; Joan of Arc, a French hero. In the sense "the principal character in a story, play, etc.," a hero is male and a heroine is female: Margaret is the novel’s heroine.