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90s Slang You Should Know


[hee-th uh n] /ˈhi ðən/ Disparaging and Offensive.
noun, plural heathens, heathen.
(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.
Informal. an irreligious, uncultured, or uncivilized person.
of or relating to heathens; pagan.
Informal. irreligious, uncultured, or uncivilized.
Origin of heathen
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. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for heathendom
Historical Examples
  • He strove to graft the morality and the organisation of Christianity on the stem of heathendom.

    Sermons J. B. Lightfoot
  • Tasso, at a later period, introduces the deities of heathendom.

  • Amzi, it was in my days of heathendom that I did it, thinking it a duty to Heaven.

    The Days of Mohammed Anna May Wilson
  • How gross heathendom can be our missionaries from time to time reveal to us.

  • Some of us He has turned to madness and the vain babblings of heathendom.

  • For Holy Cross, and room to worship above the Baals of heathendom!

    The Fair God Lew Wallace
  • Rome was the central fortress of heathendom: to withdraw from it the Imperial Government was to deprive it of its ammunition.

    Sermons J. B. Lightfoot
  • There is no hope or possibility of advance on the side of any of the old forms of heathendom.

    Theism Robert Flint
  • Similar cruelties existed among the Mexicans; and there are but too many traces of it throughout the history of heathendom.

  • These methods of christianity were in great contrast to those of heathendom.

    Woman, Church & State Matilda Joslyn Gage
British Dictionary definitions for heathendom


heathen lands, peoples, or beliefs


noun (pl) -thens, -then
a person who does not acknowledge the God of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam; pagan
an uncivilized or barbaric person
(functioning as pl) the heathen, heathens collectively
irreligious; pagan
unenlightened; uncivilized; barbaric
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 heathendom



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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