• synonyms


[hee-thuh n]Disparaging and Offensive.
noun, plural hea·thens, hea·then.
  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.
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  1. of or relating to heathens; pagan.
  2. Informal. irreligious, uncultured, or uncivilized.
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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 formshea·then·dom, nounhea·then·hood, nounhea·then·ness, nounhea·then·ship, nounhalf-hea·then, adjective, nounnon·hea·then, noun, plural non·hea·thens, non·hea·then, adjectiveun·hea·then, adjective

Synonym study

See pagan.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for heathendom

Historical Examples of heathendom

  • Tasso, at a later period, introduces the deities of heathendom.

    The Superstitions of Witchcraft

    Howard Williams

  • IN Heathendom every true convert becomes at once a Missionary.

  • How gross heathendom can be our missionaries from time to time reveal to us.

  • They were but a few here and there among the multitudes of heathendom.

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

    The Fair God

    Lew Wallace

British Dictionary definitions for heathendom


  1. heathen lands, peoples, or beliefs
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noun plural -thens or -then
  1. a person who does not acknowledge the God of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam; pagan
  2. an uncivilized or barbaric person
  3. the heathen (functioning as plural) heathens collectively
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  1. irreligious; pagan
  2. unenlightened; uncivilized; barbaric
  3. of or relating to heathen peoples or their religious, moral, and other customs, practices, and beliefs
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Derived Formsheathenism or heathenry, nounheathenness, noun

Word Origin for heathen

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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper