pagan

noun
pa·​gan | \ ˈpā-gən How to pronounce pagan (audio) \

Essential Meaning of pagan

1 : a person who worships many gods or goddesses or the earth or nature : a person whose religion is paganism
2 old-fashioned + often offensive : a person who is not religious or whose religion is not Christianity, Judaism, or Islam

Full 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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from pagan

Noun

paganish \ ˈpā-​gə-​nish How to pronounce pagan (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for pagan

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About pagan

Time Traveler for pagan

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near pagan

Paez

pagan

pagan cattle

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for pagan

Cite this Entry

“Pagan.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pagan. Accessed 24 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon
Seen & Heard
People are talking about

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pagan

pagan

noun
pa·​gan | \ ˈpā-gən How to pronounce pagan (audio) \

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

More from Merriam-Webster on pagan

Nglish: Translation of pagan for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pagan for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about pagan

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!