paganism

noun
pa·​gan·​ism | \ ˈpā-gə-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce paganism (audio) \

Definition of paganism

1a : pagan beliefs or practices
b : a pagan religion
2 : the quality or state of being a pagan

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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 paganism in a Sentence

the paganism of early Rome He is a practitioner of Paganism.
Recent Examples on the Web Manifesting sits alongside a smattering of belief systems — astrology, tarot, paganism and their metaphysical cousins — being resurrected by a youthful generation in the name of wellness. New York Times, "Manifesting, for the Rest of Us," 20 Jan. 2021 There are anywhere from 1 million to 2 million people practicing paganism in the United States. Helen A. Berger, The Conversation, "Halloween isn’t about candy and costumes for modern-day pagans – witches mark Halloween with reflections on death as well as magic," 29 Oct. 2020 Although a minority religion, contemporary paganism is growing in popularity. Helen A. Berger, The Conversation, "Halloween isn’t about candy and costumes for modern-day pagans – witches mark Halloween with reflections on death as well as magic," 29 Oct. 2020 But for members of the minority religion of Wicca and witchcraft, part of contemporary paganism, Halloween has never been primarily a children’s holiday. Helen A. Berger, The Conversation, "Halloween isn’t about candy and costumes for modern-day pagans – witches mark Halloween with reflections on death as well as magic," 29 Oct. 2020 Alice teaches Frank about legends associated with English history that promote her own feminist principles, starting with Morgan le Fay and paganism. Armond White, National Review, "Summerland’s Progressive Sentimentality," 12 Aug. 2020 Shortly after the bishop was arrested for his miracles and, after refusing to convert to paganism, beheaded. Simon Maina, National Geographic, "Valentine's Day wasn't always about love," 12 Feb. 2020 For some who were atheist, or practice paganism, being in a relationship with multiple people can seem even more unpalatable to people outside their religious or poly communities. Emanuella Grinberg, CNN, "Polyamorous relationships: When three isn't a crowd," 28 Jan. 2020 Curioporium, an eerie oddities shop and performance space in Hartford, is a gathering place for those interested in music, poetry, art, paganism, Wicca, witchcraft and more. courant.com, "Dec. 2, 2019: Got debt? Us, too.," 2 Dec. 2019

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Time Traveler for paganism

Time Traveler

The first known use of paganism was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Paganism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/paganism. Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for paganism

paganism

noun

English Language Learners Definition of paganism

: the state of being pagan
: a religion that has many gods or goddesses, considers the earth holy, and does not have a central authority

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