Definition of pagan
1 : heathen 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
paganishplay \ˈpā-gə-nish\ adjective
Examples of pagan in a Sentence
the Spanish conquistadores regarded the native peoples of the lands that they conquered as pagans who were uncivilized and inherently inferior
Recent Examples of pagan from the Web
In approximately 47 days, thousands of freaks, hippies, artists, and pagans will start their annual trek out to Nevada for the Labor Day Burning Man.
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.
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 pagan
Middle English, from Late Latin paganus, from Latin, civilian, country dweller, from pagus country district; akin to Latin pangere to fix — more at pact
First Known Use: 14th century
PAGAN Defined for Kids
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up pagan? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).