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n. pl. hea·thens or heathen
1. Offensive
a. An adherent of a religion that does not worship the God of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.
b. Such persons considered as a group.
2. Heathen An adherent of a Neopagan religion that seeks to revive the religious beliefs and practices of the ancient Germanic peoples.
3. Informal
a. One who is regarded as irreligious, uncivilized, or unenlightened.
b. Such persons considered as a group.

[Middle English hethen, from Old English hǣthen; see kaito- in Indo-European roots.]

hea′then adj.
hea′then·dom, hea′then·ism, hea′then·ry n.
hea′then·ish adj.


(Alternative Belief Systems) of, relating to, or resembling a heathen or heathen culture
ˈheathenishly adv
ˈheathenishness n


(ˈhi ðə nɪʃ)

1. of or pertaining to heathens.
2. like or befitting heathens; barbarous.
[before 900]
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Adj.1.heathenish - not acknowledging the God of Christianity and Judaism and Islam
irreligious - hostile or indifferent to religion


[ˈhiːðənɪʃ] ADJpagano


[ˈhiːðənɪʃ] adj (pej) (pagan) → pagano/a; (uncivilized) → barbaro/a
References in classic literature ?
There is much fruitful soil uncultivated here," he said; "and, I may add, without the sinful leaven of self- commendation, that, since my short sojourn in these heathenish abodes, much good seed has been scattered by the wayside.
heathenish adornment, and so walk the streets as brave as ever"
The opposite wall of this entry was hung all over with a heathenish array of monstrous clubs and spears.
There was some heathenish, coffin-colored old lumber aboard, which, upon a long previous voyage, had been cut from the aboriginal groves of the Lackaday islands, and from these dark planks the coffin was recommended to be made.
that is a selfish, heathenish saying, whoever uses it; and any man who thinks he has nothing to do but take care of number one, why, it's a pity but what he had been drowned like a puppy or a kitten, before he got his eyes open; that's what I think," said John, with a very decided jerk of his head.
So spoke this poor, heathenish Kentuckian, who had not been instructed in his constitutional relations, and consequently was betrayed into acting in a sort of Christianized manner, which, if he had been better situated and more enlightened, he would not have been left to do.
Granted that my fancy for Hetty was only a cloud of illusions, still I could not, within a few days of her sudden death, go in cold blood to take part in a grotesque and heathenish mummery over her coffin.
And to Adam the church service was the best channel he could have found for his mingled regret, yearning, and resignation; its interchange of beseeching cries for help with outbursts of faith and praise, its recurrent responses and the familiar rhythm of its collects, seemed to speak for him as no other form of worship could have done; as, to those early Christians who had worshipped from their childhood upwards in catacombs, the torch-light and shadows must have seemed nearer the Divine presence than the heathenish daylight of the streets.
It is very well for natives to have a name for one among themselves, but it is not decent that they should call a white man by their heathenish appellations to his face.
I think that he had never been entirely recon-ciled to the heathenish invention which I called a sail, and that down in the bottom of his heart he believed that the paddlers would eventually overhaul us; but now he couldn't praise it enough.
As for those captive tribes, themselves were they Who wrought their own captivity, fell off From God to worship calves, the deities Of Egypt, Baal next and Ashtaroth, And all the idolatries of heathen round, Besides their other worse than heathenish crimes; Nor in the land of their captivity Humbled themselves, or penitent besought The God of their forefathers, but so died Impenitent, and left a race behind Like to themselves, distinguishable scarce From Gentiles, but by circumcision vain, And God with idols in their worship joined.
There's something dreadful heathenish about it, seems to me.