Definition of heathen in English:


Pronunciation /ˈhēT͟Hən/ /ˈhiðən/

See synonyms for heathen

Translate heathen into Spanish


  • 1derogatory 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.

    • ‘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
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2the heathenHeathen people collectively, especially (in biblical use) those who did not worship the God of Israel.
      • ‘Edwards made a series of important theological moves beyond his Reformed predecessors that could have opened the door for a more hopeful view of the salvation of the heathen.’
      • ‘Despite his repeated charges, I do not insist that Edwards argued forcefully for the salvation of the heathen through the prisca theologia.’
      • ‘The assertion that Edwards provided for the salvation of the heathen discounts this fundamental premise of his thought.’
      • ‘In order to extend the idea to provide for the salvation of the heathen, two assumptions must be made.’
      • ‘He also challenged the denunciatory preaching of the missionaries, which condemned the unrepentant heathen to hell, as intrinsic to the teaching of the Bible.’
      • ‘Such ugly words and sentiments have not been purged from our scriptures, and they need to remain there, to trouble and warn us, lest we think murderous passions belong only to the alien and the heathen.’
      • ‘But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.’
      • ‘Our response to this will be that of Psalm 96: 3-6, Declare his glory among the heathen, His wonders among all people.’
      • ‘For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.’
      • ‘For the heathen to hear about the Lord is not enough.’
      • ‘Another thing that must be noted in these chapters in Acts was the fact that Paul was in no way going out to evangelise the heathen who had no contact with the good news.’
      • ‘The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.’
      • ‘Landing at Deal on 1 February 1738 he commented, ‘I, who went to America to convert the heathen was never myself converted to God’.’
      • ‘And how is Christ going to ‘inherit’ the heathen and ‘possess’ the earth?’
      • ‘So Bousset interprets the dogs as ‘an ancient designation for the heathen,’ and Kraft suggests that they might also refer to backsliders, false teachers, and to heretics.’
      • ‘The early Protestant immigrants to the Southwest generally saw their mission as taming the wilderness and converting the heathen.’
      • ‘Boniface had gone to Germany to convert the heathen, and in a spectacular and courageous gesture he felled the sacred oak at Geismar.’
      • ‘According to Irenaeus he claimed to have appeared in Samaria as the Father, in Judea as the Son, and among the heathen as the Holy Ghost, a manifestation of the Eternal.’
      • ‘This was associated with the idea that the new society was on a special mission from God, to redeem the world and bring light to the heathen.’
    3. 1.3informal An unenlightened person; 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 gods’
    • ‘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.