The Definition of Pagan 

           Language is an ever-changing living social agreement, as society changes so does the definition of many words. The word Pagan has evolved over time and often has a negative connotation in contemporary dictionaries. Many people around the world define themselves as simply Pagan, and many of them would not agree with the many published definitions.  Some would ask, “why does it even matter, as Pagans we know the definition?” It matters because when millions of people around the world look up ‘Pagan’, these are the definitions they are seeing and using to build their understanding of our faith.  To get a better understanding of what outsiders are seeing when defining  Pagan we have compiled as many definitions as we could find from across the web and throughout time. These are listed in no particular order and all give a full citation.  

Click here to see How Pagans Define Pagan

 **If you have a definition that you do not see listed here please contact us so that it can be added.**

 

Merriam-Webster:

  • Heathen; especially: a follower of a polytheistic religion
  • One who has little or no religion and who delights in sensual pleasures and material goods: an irreligious or hedonistic person
  • Neo- pagan

Definition Pagan. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pagan

 

Merriam-Webster Student Dictionary:

  • HEATHEN 
  • a person who is not religious

Word History: In ancient Rome a person living in a rural area or village was called paganus, a word derived from the Latin noun pagus, meaning “village, district.” In time paganus came to refer to a civilian as opposed to a soldier. When Christianity became generally accepted in the towns and cities of the empire, paganus was used to refer to a villager who continued to worship the old gods. Christians used the term for anyone not of their faith or of the Jewish faith. The word in Old English for such a person was what is now heathen. In the 14th century, English borrowed the Latin paganus as pagan, and used it with the same meaning. In time both heathen and pagan also took on the meaning of “a person having no religion.” 

Definition of pagan – Merriam-Webster’s Student Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.wordcentral.com/cgi-bin/student?pagan 

 

Urban Dictionary

  • A somewhat vague term derived from the Latin word paganus. Pagan is a term which refers to a variety of different religions ranging from Wicca, to that of ancient Egypt and even Hinduism, among many others. Some Pagans are of no specific religion, but rather are eclectic. In general Pagan religions have more than one deity, or many gods which are aspects of one (an idea similar to that of the Christian trinity). Another quite common feature of Pagan religions are that they tend to be nature oriented. Pagan can also be used as a derogatory word for any non-Judeo/Christian/Islamic religion.
  • Originally from the Latin word paganus which meant countryman. Today it mostly means someone who is part of a number of religions that comes under the umbrella term of paganism. Usually these religions are nature-based or revere nature or whose religion is tied to nature in some way. Pagans come from all walks of live be it politics, law enforcement, education or business etc.

Pagan. (2004, May 25). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Pagan

Second Def: published 11, September, 2003

 

Dictionary.com

Noun

  • (no longer in technical use) one of a people or community observing a polytheistic religion, as the ancient Romans and Greeks.
  • a member of a religious, spiritual, or cultural community based on the worship of nature or the earth; a neo-Pagan.
  • Disparaging and Offensive

(in historical contexts) 

  • a person who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim; a heathen.
  • an irreligious or hedonistic person.
  • an uncivilized or unenlightened person.

The definition of pagan. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/pagan

 

Your Dictionary

  • The definition of a pagan is a person who worships many gods or who worships nature and the Earth

Pagan dictionary definition | pagan defined. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.yourdictionary.com/pagan

 

Webster’s New World

  • a person who is not a Christian, Muslim, or Jew; heathen: formerly, sometimes applied specif. to a non-Christian by Christians
  • a person who has no religion
  • a person who worships nature or the earth, specif., a neopagan

Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition Copyright © 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

 

The American Heritage Dictionary

  • An adherent of a polytheistic religion in antiquity, especially when viewed in contrast to an adherent of a monotheistic religion.
  • A Neopagan.
  • One who has no religion.
  • An adherent of a religion other than Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.
  • A hedonist.

 The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 5th edition. by the Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries. Copyright © 2016, 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

 

Wiktionary

Adjective

  • Relating to, characteristic of or adhering to non-Abrahamist religions, especially earlier polytheism.
  • (by extension) Savage, immoral, uncivilized, wild.

Noun

  • A person not adhering to any major or recognized religion, especially a heathen or non-Abrahamist, follower of a pantheistic or nature-worshipping religion, neopagan.
  • (by extension) An uncivilized or unsocialized person
  • Especially an unruly, badly educated child.

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pagan

The Free Dictionary

  • An adherent of a polytheistic religion in antiquity, especially when viewed in contrast to an adherent of a monotheistic religion.
  • A Neopagan.
  • Offensive
    • One who has no religion.
    • An adherent of a religion other than Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.
  • A hedonist.

Pagan. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/pagan

 

Oxford Dictionary

  • A person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions.
  • dated, derogatory A non-Christian.
  • An adherent of neopaganism.

Pagan: Definition of pagan in Oxford dictionary (American English) (US). (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/pagan

 

Online Etymology Dictionary

late 14c., from Late Latin paganus “pagan,” in classical Latin “villager, rustic; civilian, non-combatant” noun use of adjective meaning “of the country, of a village,” from pagus “country people; province, rural district,” originally “district limited by markers,” thus related to pangere “to fix, fasten,” from PIE root *pag-“to fix” (see pact). As an adjective from early 15c. 

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 (such as milites “soldier of Christ,” etc.). Applied to modern pantheists and nature-worshippers from 1908.

Pagan and heathen are primarily the same in meaning; but pagan is sometimes distinctively applied to those nations that, although worshiping false gods, are more cultivated, as the Greeks and Romans, and heathen to uncivilized idolaters, as the tribes of Africa. A Mohammedan is not counted a pagan much less a heathen. [Century Dictionary, 1902]

The English surname Paine, Payne, etc., appears by old records to be from Latinpaganus, but whether in the sense “villager,” “rustic,” or “heathen” is disputed. It also was a common Christian name in 13c., “and was, no doubt, given without any thought of its meaning” [“Dictionary of English Surnames”].

Online Etymology Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=pagan 

 

Cambridge Dictionary

  • Belonging to or used in a religion that worships many gods (American English)
  • belonging or relating to a religion that worships many gods, especially one that existedbefore the main  world  religions (British English)
  • relating to religious  beliefs that do not belong to any of the main  religions of the world: (British English)

Pagan Definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/pagan?q=Pagan

 

One Look Dictionary Search

  • noun:  a person who does not acknowledge your God
  • adjective:  not acknowledging the God of Christianity and Judaism and Islam
  • name:  A surname (common: 1 in 10000 families; popularity rank in the U.S.: #1206)mon: 1 in 10000 families; popularity rank in the U.S.: #1206)

Definitions of Pagan – OneLook Dictionary Search. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.onelook.com/?w=Pagan

 

Longman Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Religion

Results for pagan – Longman English Dictionary Online. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.ldoceonline.com/search/?q=pagan

 

Word Reference

  • one of a people or community following a polytheistic religion, as the ancient Greeks.
  • one who is not a believer in one of the monotheistic religions.
  • one who is not religious, esp. a hedonist or sensualist.

adj. 

  • of or relating to pagans or their religion:pagan rituals and sacrifices.
  • not religious.

Online Language Dictionaries. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.wordreference.com/definition/pagan

 

This listing is only of the word ‘pagan’, and not ‘neo-pagan’, which is more often then not defined much more closely to the way those of us identify as Pagan would intend. The word Pagan has been defined in many ways, most often in ways that those of us who are Pagan do not use. 

It is time to let go of the hate that made this word into a slur, and helps the world define it as it is defined by the Pagans who practice it.