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heathen

[hee-th uh n] /ˈhi ðən/ Disparaging and Offensive.
noun, plural heathens, heathen.
1.
(in historical contexts) an individual of a people that do not acknowledge the God of the Bible; a person who is neither a Jew, Christian, nor Muslim; a pagan.
2.
Informal. an irreligious, uncultured, or uncivilized person.
adjective
3.
of or relating to heathens; pagan.
4.
Informal. irreligious, uncultured, or uncivilized.
Origin of heathen
900
before 900; Middle English hethen, Old English hǣthen, akin to German Heide, heidnisch (adj.), Old Norse heithingi (noun), heithinn (adj.), Gothic haithno (noun); perhaps akin to heath
Related forms
heathendom, noun
heathenhood, noun
heathenness, noun
heathenship, noun
half-heathen, adjective, noun
nonheathen, noun, plural nonheathens, nonheathen, adjective
unheathen, adjective
Synonym Study
See pagan.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for heathen
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Some days she thought she would give it to the heathen, and other days she wondered if it would be wrong to spend it for candy.

    Little Grandmother Sophie May
  • My opinion then, is, that he wants to be transported, if he is to turn up such a heathen as that!

    The Channings Mrs. Henry Wood
  • The heathen, as a general remark, exert themselves no oftener and no longer than they feel the pressure of present want.

    Thoughts on Missions Sheldon Dibble
  • I asked him what were heathen lands, and he said they were countries where heathen lived.

    The Harbor Ernest Poole
  • They strongly yearned to spread their saving Gospel to the heathen Islands all around.

  • Steadily drearier grew the ocean, flatter all the heathen lands.

    The Harbor Ernest Poole
British Dictionary definitions for heathen

heathen

/ˈhiːðən/
noun (pl) -thens, -then
1.
a person who does not acknowledge the God of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam; pagan
2.
an uncivilized or barbaric person
3.
(functioning as pl) the heathen, heathens collectively
adjective
4.
irreligious; pagan
5.
unenlightened; uncivilized; barbaric
6.
of or relating to heathen peoples or their religious, moral, and other customs, practices, and beliefs
Derived Forms
heathenism, heathenry, noun
heathenness, noun
Word Origin
Old English hǣthen; related to Old Norse heithinn, Old Frisian hēthin, Old High German heidan
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for heathen
n.

Old English hæðen "not Christian or Jewish," also as a noun, "heathen man" (especially of the Danes), merged with Old Norse heiðinn (adj.) "heathen, pagan."

Perhaps literally "pertaining to one inhabiting uncultivated land," from heath + -en (2). But historically assumed to be from Gothic haiþno "gentile, heathen woman," used by Ulfilas in the first translation of the Bible into a Germanic language (cf. Mark vii:26, for "Greek"); if so it could be a derivative of Gothic haiþi "dwelling on the heath," but this sense is not recorded. It may have been chosen on model of Latin paganus, with its root sense of "rural" (see pagan), or for resemblance to Greek ethne (see gentile), or it may be a literal borrowing of that Greek word, perhaps via Armenian hethanos [Sophus Bugge]. Like other basic words for exclusively Christian ideas (e.g. church) it likely would have come first into Gothic and then spread to other Germanic languages.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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heathen in the Bible

(Heb. plural goyum). At first the word _goyim_ denoted generally all the nations of the world (Gen. 18:18; comp. Gal. 3:8). The Jews afterwards became a people distinguished in a marked manner from the other _goyim_. They were a separate people (Lev. 20:23; 26:14-45; Deut. 28), and the other nations, the Amorites, Hittites, etc., were the _goyim_, the heathen, with whom the Jews were forbidden to be associated in any way (Josh. 23:7; 1 Kings 11:2). The practice of idolatry was the characteristic of these nations, and hence the word came to designate idolaters (Ps. 106:47; Jer. 46:28; Lam. 1:3; Isa. 36:18), the wicked (Ps. 9:5, 15, 17). The corresponding Greek word in the New Testament, _ethne_, has similar shades of meaning. In Acts 22:21, Gal. 3:14, it denotes the people of the earth generally; and in Matt. 6:7, an idolater. In modern usage the word denotes all nations that are strangers to revealed religion.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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