pagan

noun
pa·​gan | \ˈpā-gən \

Definition of pagan 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : heathen sense 1 especially : a follower of a polytheistic religion (as in ancient Rome)

2 : one who has little or no religion and who delights in sensual pleasures and material goods : an irreligious or hedonistic person

3 : neo-pagan witches, druids, goddess worshippers, and other pagans in America today— Alice Dowd

pagan

adjective

Definition of pagan (Entry 2 of 2)

: of, relating to, or having the characteristics of pagans pagan customs/beliefs Reuse of Roman objects was not uncommon during the Middle Ages, although the discovery of ancient sculpture was usually a momentous event, and pagan images in particular provoked fearful responses.— Peter Scott Brown In addition to moon-rituals, wiccans celebrate pagan seasonal holidays …— Scott McMurray

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Other Words from pagan

Noun

paganish \ ˈpā-​gə-​nish \ adjective

Synonyms for pagan

Synonyms: Noun

gentile, heathen, idolater (or idolator)

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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 pagan in a Sentence

Noun

the Spanish conquistadores regarded the native peoples of the lands that they conquered as pagans who were uncivilized and inherently inferior

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Church officials decided to recognize Dec. 25 as his birthday, probably to coincide with the date of pagan festivals in an attempt to get pagans to accept Christianity as the official religion. Atlanta Life, ajc, "6 things you may not know about Christmas," 10 Nov. 2017 While plague stalks the land, paranoid peasants swap cautionary folk tales about evil spirits, pagans, Jews and other outsiders. Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse': Film Review | LFF 2017," 9 Oct. 2017 Thomas Jefferson had strong views on religion, but his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom disestablished the Church of England and established religious liberty for Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, even pagans. Jonah Goldberg, National Review, "Does America Still Believe in the Right to Be Wrong?," 27 Sep. 2017 Thomas Jefferson had strong views on religion, but his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom disestablished the Church of Englandand established religious liberty for Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, even pagans. Jonah Goldberg, Alaska Dispatch News, "We’ve lost respect for the right to be wrong," 27 Sep. 2017 Lance Wallnau, a Christian author, claimed God spoke to him and showed him that Trump was like King Cyrus, who followed God’s will despite being a pagan. Colby Itkowitz, Washington Post, "‘Raised up by God’: Televangelist Paula White compares Trump to Queen Esther," 23 Aug. 2017 To do Trumpzilla justice, the film should be blustery, spectacular, gold-garish, and neo-pagan, a Circus Maximus Cecil B. DeMille might have whipped up with his riding crop after a fever dream. James Wolcott, HWD, "Trump: The Movie, Coming Soon to a Theater Near You (if Theaters Still Exist)," 19 June 2017 To do Trumpzilla justice, the film should be blustery, spectacular, gold-garish, and neo-pagan, a Circus Maximus Cecil B. DeMille might have whipped up with his riding crop after a fever dream. James Wolcott, HWD, "Trump: The Movie, Coming Soon to a Theater Near You (if Theaters Still Exist)," 19 June 2017 To do Trumpzilla justice, the film should be blustery, spectacular, gold-garish, and neo-pagan, a Circus Maximus Cecil B. DeMille might have whipped up with his riding crop after a fever dream. James Wolcott, HWD, "Trump: The Movie, Coming Soon to a Theater Near You (if Theaters Still Exist)," 19 June 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pagan.' 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 pagan

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pagan

Noun

Middle English, from Late Latin paganus, from Latin, civilian, country dweller, from pagus country district; akin to Latin pangere to fix — more at pact

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Dictionary Entries near pagan

paepae

Paestum

Paez

pagan

pagan cattle

pagandom

paganic

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Time Traveler for pagan

The first known use of pagan was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for pagan

pagan

noun
pa·​gan | \ˈpā-gən \

Kids Definition of pagan

 (Entry 1 of 2)

pagan

adjective

Kids Definition of pagan (Entry 2 of 2)

: of or relating to heathens or their worship : heathen a pagan temple

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