Meaning of heathen in English:


Pronunciation /ˈhiːð(ə)n/

See synonyms for heathen

Translate heathen into Spanish


  • 1mainly derogatory A person who does not belong to a widely held religion (especially one who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim) as regarded by those who do.

    ‘my brother and I were raised, as my grandma puts it, as heathens’
    • ‘a chance of salvation for the heathen’
    • ‘The brochure promises hell for heathens and salvation through Christ.’
    • ‘The heathen will not be judged because they did not hear of Christ, but because they have refused the knowledge that was given to them about God and did not pursue it.’
    • ‘I wanted to become a Missionary in order to spread the Word to the heathens of the world.’
    • ‘Monotheism leads to wars because everyone presumes their god/goddess gives them the divine right against all other heathens.’
    • ‘He is the prototype of the worst kind of king: a heathen who gathers possessions and wastes them, for his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his majesty.’
    • ‘Over a million of us are either not Christians, are a part of some other faith, are heathens, or are Christians who interpret the Bible in a very different way from some members in this Chamber.’
    • ‘But we shouldn't talk about those heathens during a Christian festival!’
    • ‘For many missionaries the distinctions between a heathen and a Christian Islander were as strong as those between a lapsed and a Christian European.’
    • ‘If you make me a rich man I'll spend all my time and all my wealth converting faithless heathens and praising your name.’
    • ‘He looked as if he could do with a hearty meal, and I sadly acknowledged that he was probably starving, as many of these poor heathen had been this last winter.’
    • ‘If I get any of the various jobs which are not at places of worship, then I'll remain a heathen.’
    • ‘The medieval Europeans divided the world between Christian and heathen, but heathens could convert to Christianity.’
    1. 1.1A follower of a polytheistic religion; a pagan.
      ‘Pagan followers can go by the title of witches, Druids, heathens or shamans, and some adhere to the tradition of Wicca.’
      • ‘The Republic declared itself as belonging to the order of Nature; it had rebelled against the old Christian God and had so declared itself heathen, ‘pagan’.’
      • ‘Biblical pundits call them heathens, primitives or worse; we call ourselves Pagans.’
      • ‘I am no witch, no heathen; I simply have a clear eye, an eye that is clearer than any human I have encountered.’
      pagan, infidel, idolater, idolatress
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    2. 1.2 informal A person regarded as lacking culture or moral principles.
      • ‘eat your chips, you little heathen!’
      • ‘‘Don't be ridiculous, you little heathen,’ Bridgett yelled.’
      • ‘You're not supposed to enjoy it; what are you, some kind of heathen?’
      • ‘Their children were heathens, the pair of them.’
      • ‘She is an absolute heathen who refuses to not put teabags in the sink.’
      • ‘They were for the most part a bunch of heathens always in trouble with the law.’
      philistine, boor, oaf, ignoramus, lout, yahoo, vulgarian, plebeian
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  • Relating to heathens.

    ‘heathen practices’
    • ‘Christianity could not content itself with building up its own altar; it was absolutely forced to undertake the destruction of the heathen altars’
    • ‘It is interesting to find that the root of smoking tobacco came from heathen religions.’
    • ‘I don't know how enlightening you've found it, but I hope I have given something of the heathen perspective.’
    • ‘As the Jews began to make contact with their heathen neighbors, they took their Scriptures and prophecies of a Messiah with them.’
    • ‘It was not at first by any means a Christian Church, but a mere adaptation of those heathen rites which we roughly designate by the term Obe Worship, or ‘Voodoism.’’
    • ‘The heathen nations used sorcery and divination but the Lord said that the people were not to go down that route.’
    • ‘What was it that made him such a devoted cataloguer of the heathen traditions he was meant to eradicate?’
    • ‘The person who barges in most often these days is my highly conservative, self-proclaimed fundamentalist Christian roommate, who tries his damnedest to stop my heathen ways.’
    • ‘If heathen philosophers grasped something of the three transcendentals and of the law of human nature, they grasped nothing of these three virtues.’
    • ‘At first glance one would say that these apostles were to go to all the heathen world and proclaim a message of salvation as we think of it.’
    • ‘They have abandoned their cannibalism and heathen ways.’
    • ‘The result is a blurring of the boundary between the sanctioned Christian creed and the heathen practices associated with magic and the devil.’
    • ‘He had, if not a revulsion towards the pagan priesthood, then a fear of them and their devotion to their heathen religion.’
    pagan, infidel, idolatrous, heathenish
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Old English hǣthen, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch heiden and German Heide; generally regarded as a specifically Christian use of a Germanic adjective meaning ‘inhabiting open country’, from the base of heath.