Origin: OE. Hethen, AS. Hen, prop. An adj. Fr. H heath, and orig, therefore, one who lives in the country or on the heaths and in the woods (cf. Pagan, fr. Pagus village); akin to OS. Hin, adj, D. Heiden a heathen, G. Heide, OHG. Heidan, Icel. Heiinn, adj, Sw. Heden, Goth. Haipn, fem. See Heath, and cf. Hoiden.

1. An individual of the pagan or unbelieving nations, or those which worship idols and do not acknowledge the true God; a pagan; an idolater.

2. An irreligious person. "If it is no more than a moral discourse, he may preach it and they may hear it, and yet both continue unconverted heathens." (V. Knox) The heathen, as the term is used in the Scriptures, all people except the Jews; now used of all people except Christians, Jews, and Mohammedans. "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance." (Ps. Ii. 8)

Synonyms: Pagan, gentile. See Pagan.

(01 Mar 1998)