1

heathen

play
adjective hea·then \ ˈhē-t͟hən \

Definition of heathen

1 :of or relating to people or nations that do not acknowledge the God of the Bible :of or relating to heathens (see 2heathen 1), their religions, or their customs :pagan
  • heathen rituals

Examples of heathen in a Sentence

  1. old missionaries who mistakenly thought that they were going off to China to tame the heathen hordes

Recent Examples of heathen from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'heathen.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

What Do pagan and heathen Really Mean?

Pagan is derived from the Late Latin paganus, which was used at the end of the Roman Empire to name those who practiced a religion other than Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. Early Christians often used the term to refer to non-Christians who worshiped multiple deities. In Latin, paganus originally meant “country dweller” or “civilian;” it is believed that the word’s religious meanings developed either from the enduring non-Christian religious practices of those who lived far from the Roman cities where Christianity was more quickly adopted, or from the fact that early Christians referred to themselves as “soldiers of Christ,” making nonbelievers “civilians.”

The definition and etymology of heathen overlap with those of pagan: both words denote “an unconverted member of a people or nation that does not acknowledge the God of the Bible,” and heathen, like pagan, is believed to have come from the term for a country inhabitant, or in this case, a "heath dweller."

Both words have developed broader and pejorative meanings over time, with pagan being used to mean “an irreligious or hedonistic person” and heathen “uncivilized” or “strange,” but their original meanings are still in use.

Origin and Etymology of heathen

Middle English hethen, from Old English hǣthen; akin to Old High German heidan heathen, and probably to Old English hǣth heath

Other Christian Religious Terms


2

heathen

noun

Definition of heathen

plural heathens or heathen
1 :an unconverted member of a people or nation who does not acknowledge the God of the Bible
2 :an uncivilized or irreligious person

heathendom

play \ˈhē-t͟hən-dəm\ noun

heathenism

play \ˈhē-t͟hə-ˌni-zəm\ noun

heathenize

play \ˈhē-t͟hə-ˌnīz\ transitive verb

Examples of heathen in a Sentence

  1. a missionary sent to distant lands to convert the heathens

  2. European colonizers, who considered the New World peoples to be heathens, forced them to conform to European ways.

Recent Examples of heathen from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'heathen.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of heathen

heathen Synonyms

Other Christian Religious Terms


HEATHEN Defined for Kids

1

heathen

play
adjective hea·then \ ˈhē-t͟hən \

Definition of heathen for Students

1 :relating to people who do not know about and worship the God of the Bible
2 :not civilized

2

heathen

noun

Definition of heathen for Students

plural heathens or heathen
1 :a person who does not know about and worship the God of the Bible :pagan
2 :an uncivilized person


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