Pagans

pagan

[pey-guhn]
noun
1.
one of a people or community observing a polytheistic religion, as the ancient Romans and Greeks: no longer in technical use.
2.
Disparaging and Offensive. (in historical contexts) a person who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim; a heathen.
3.
a follower of any of various contemporary religions that are based on the worship of nature or the Earth; a neopagan.
4.
Disparaging and Offensive. an irreligious or hedonistic person.
5.
Disparaging and Offensive. an uncivilized or unenlightened person.
adjective
6.
Disparaging and Offensive. pertaining to the worship or worshipers of any religion that is neither Christian, Jewish, nor Muslim.
7.
of, pertaining to, or characteristic of pagans.
8.
Disparaging and Offensive. irreligious or hedonistic.
9.
Disparaging and Offensive. (of a person) uncivilized or unenlightened.

Origin:
1325–75; Middle English < Medieval Latin, Late Latin pāgānus ‘worshiper of false gods’, orig. ‘civilian’ (i.e., not a soldier of Christ), Latin: ‘peasant’, noun use of pāgānus ‘rural, civilian’, derivative of pāgus ‘village, rural district’ (akin to pangere ‘to fix, make fast’); see -an

paganish, adjective
paganishly, adverb
nonpagan, noun, adjective
nonpaganish, adjective
pseudopagan, adjective
semipagan, noun, adjective
semipaganish, adjective
unpagan, adjective


Heathen and pagan are primarily historical terms that were applied pejoratively, especially by people who were Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, to peoples who were not members of one of those three monotheistic religious groups. Heathen referred especially to the peoples and cultures of primitive or ancient tribes thought to harbor unenlightened, barbaric idol worshipers: heathen rites; heathen idols.
Pagan, although sometimes applied similarly to those tribes, was more often used to refer specifically to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who worshiped the multiple gods and goddesses said to dwell on Mount Olympus, such as Zeus and Athena (called Jupiter and Minerva by the Romans). The term was applied to their beliefs and culture as well: a pagan ritual; a pagan civilization.
Contemporary paganism, having evolved and expanded in Europe and North America since the 20th century, includes adherents of diverse groups that hold various beliefs, which may focus, for example, on the divinity of nature or of the planet Earth or which may be pantheistic or polytheistic. In modern English, heathen remains an offensive term, used to accuse someone of being unenlightened or irreligious; pagan, however, is increasingly a neutral description of certain existing and emerging religious movements.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
pagan (ˈpeɪɡən)
 
n
1.  a member of a group professing a polytheistic religion or any religion other than Christianity, Judaism, or Islam
2.  a person without any religion; heathen
 
adj
3.  of or relating to pagans or their faith or worship
4.  heathen; irreligious
 
[C14: from Church Latin pāgānus civilian (hence, not a soldier of Christ), from Latin: countryman, villager, from pāgus village]
 
'pagandom
 
n
 
'paganish
 
adj
 
'paganism
 
n
 
'paganist
 
adj, —n
 
pagan'istic
 
adj
 
pagan'istically
 
adv

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

pagan
late 14c., from L.L. paganus "pagan," in classical L. "villager, rustic, civilian," from pagus "rural district," originally "district limited by markers," thus related to pangere "to fix, fasten," from PIE base *pag- "to fix" (see pact). Religious sense is often said to derive
from conservative rural adherence to the old gods after the Christianization of Roman towns and cities; but the word in this sense predates that period in Church history, and it is more likely derived from the use of paganus in Roman military jargon for "civilian, incompetent soldier," which Christians (Tertullian, c.202; Augustine) picked up with the military imagery of the early Church (e.g. milites "soldier of Christ," etc.). Applied to modern pantheists and nature-worshippers from 1908.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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