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HEATHEN, a term originally applied to all persons or races who did not hold the Jewish or Christian belief, thus including Mahommedans. It is now more usually given to polytheistic races, thus excluding Mahommedans. The derivation of the word has been much debated. It is common to all Germanic languages; cf. German Heide, Dutch heiden. It is usually ascribed to a Gothic haiţi, heath. In Ulfilas’ Gothic version of the Bible, the earliest extant literary monument of the Germanic languages, the Syrophoenician woman (Mark vii. 26) is called haiţno, where the Vulgate has gentilis. “Heathen,” i.e. the people of the heath or open country, would thus be a translation of the Latin paganus, pagan, i.e. the people of the pagus or village, applied to the dwellers in the country where the worship of the old gods still lingered, when the people of the towns were Christians (but see Pagan for a more tenable explanation of that term). On the other hand it has been suggested (Prof. S. Bugge, Indo-German. Forschungen, v. 178, quoted in the New English Dictionary) that Ulfilas may have adopted the word from the Armenian hetanos, i.e. Greek ἔθνη, tribes, races, the word used for the “Gentiles” in the New Testament. Gentilis in Latin, properly meaning “tribesman,” came to be used of foreigners and non-Roman peoples, and was adopted in ecclesiastical usage for the non-Christian nations and in the Old Testament for non-Jewish races.
Transcriber's note: A few typographical errors have been corrected. They appear in the text like this, and the explanation will appear when the mouse pointer is moved over the marked passage. Sections in Greek will yield a transliteration when the pointer is moved over them, and words using diacritic characters in the Latin Extended Additional block, which may not display in some fonts or browsers, will display an unaccented version.

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