heathen

adjective
hea·​then | \ ˈhē-t͟hən How to pronounce heathen (audio) \

Definition of heathen

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

heathen

noun
plural heathens or heathen

Definition of heathen (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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Other Words from heathen

Noun

heathendom \ ˈhē-​t͟hən-​dəm How to pronounce heathendom (audio) \ noun
heathenism \ ˈhē-​t͟hə-​ˌni-​zəm How to pronounce heathenism (audio) \ noun
heathenize \ ˈhē-​t͟hə-​ˌnīz How to pronounce heathenize (audio) \ transitive verb

Synonyms & Antonyms for heathen

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Adjective

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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.

Examples of heathen in a Sentence

Adjective old missionaries who mistakenly thought that they were going off to China to tame the heathen hordes Noun a missionary sent to distant lands to convert the heathens European colonizers, who considered the New World peoples to be heathens, forced them to conform to European ways.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The Cincinnati Bengals welcome the media heathen universe for a gab session/sitdown, linen-tablecloth lunch known in This Space as The Mock Turtle Soupfest and Weenie Roast. Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati.com, "Doc's Morning Line: Today, Mike Brown and Cincinnati Bengals coaches suffer us media fools," 28 May 2019 Some of my brethren and sis-tren (sis-tren?) in the heathen media tribe get all riled up if a player or coach won’t speak to them. Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati.com, "Doc's TML: MLB's netting issue is complicated and we can't make the world disaster-proof.," 30 May 2019 Each essay will identify a contemporary issue, discuss it through the lens of heathen myths, and suggest a solution based on heathen ideals. Sigal Samuel, The Atlantic, "What To Do When Racists Try To Hijack Your Religion," 2 Nov. 2017 The intrigues of those heathen adversaries moreover qualified as badges of honor. Robert Dallek, The Hive, "How Will History Judge the Trump Presidency?," 7 Sep. 2017 Generally they were born the slaves of barbarian masters, untaught in all the useful arts and occupations, reared in heathen darkness, they were transferred to shores enlightened by the rays of Christianity. Joseph Goodman, AL.com, "Confederate monuments offend, but there is something much worse in Alabama," 25 May 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun One of the oldest bars in the state, 740 opened on Louisville’s Front Street in 1904 to keep those heathen drinkers off of the more civilized Main Street. Josie Sexton, The Know, "Colorado’s 13 most iconic, historic restaurants and what to order when you’re there," 23 Oct. 2019 The colonizers, charged exclusively with the mission to bring back treasure and convert heathens to Christianity, were incapable of seeing the natives of the New World in any other context. Tom Gjelten, Washington Post, "In Latin America, colonialism’s violent, seemingly inescapable legacy," 23 Aug. 2019 What’s shocking, but shouldn’t be, has been the reaction of some fans and media heathens. Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati.com, "Doc's Morning Line: Andrew Luck made a lifestyle choice. Respect it, football fans.," 28 Aug. 2019 There was still a certain code of the road between ballplayers and the heathens that covered them. Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati.com, "Doc's Morning Line: Is the Cincinnati Reds pitching staff waning? We're about to find out.," 14 July 2019 Another resident said the militants used the excuse of smashing heathen tombstones to search the grounds. Loveday Morris, Washington Post, "An Israeli soldier went MIA 37 years ago. International intrigue and DNA testing brought him home.," 11 July 2019 Christine, my personal hall monitor, suggested that some might see us as heathens, boys running wild with guns and ill-prepared for our adventure. Steve Meyer, Anchorage Daily News, "Years later, a loosely planned adventure is remembered for its laughs and lessons," 5 June 2019 Savages and heathens, lowly and oppressed, hailed and welcomed it at the far end of the wide world. Josh Axelrod And Saeed Ahmed, CNN, "It's Flag Day. Here are some fun facts about the American flag you may not have known," 14 June 2018 And then there are the crusaders who are trying to claim the heathen Eastern European lands for democracy and freedom. Keith Gessen, New York Times, "The Quiet Americans Behind the U.S.-Russia Imbroglio," 8 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of heathen

Adjective

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for heathen

Adjective

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

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Statistics for heathen

Time Traveler for heathen

The first known use of heathen was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for heathen

heathen

noun

English Language Learners Definition of heathen

old-fashioned + often offensive : a person who is not religious or who does not practice Christianity, Judaism, or Islam

heathen

adjective
hea·​then | \ ˈhē-t͟hən How to pronounce heathen (audio) \

Kids Definition of heathen

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

heathen

noun
plural heathens or heathen

Kids Definition of heathen (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on heathen

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for heathen

Spanish Central: Translation of heathen

Nglish: Translation of heathen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of heathen for Arabic Speakers

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