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SAT vocabulary: pagan

What does pagan mean? You’re about to find out!

Quick Vocab Quiz for the word pagan

First, before you read the explanation, definition, and discussion of the word pagan, try this quick vocab quiz:

pagan most nearly means

(A) heathen (B) heaven (C) haven (D) hater (E) herder

(Answer is below.)

Part of Speech: NOUN

Pronunciations: IPA: /ˈpeɪ.gən/ Glossary-style: [PAY-guhn]

Definition: a person whose religion is not Islam, Judaism, or Christianity. a person who worships more than one god or goddess, the earth, nature, or the like. a person who highly values sensual pleasure.

Example: People have long had the tendency to consider others who do not accept their religious views to be pagans; however, in the growing pluralistic society of the modern world, people have learned to be more accepting.

Discussion: The word pagan is interesting in several regards.

The word originates from the Latin paganus, which simply means country-dweller (seemingly implying that only city-dwellers were sophisticated enough to be spiritual in an acceptable way).

The original meaning of the word referred to people who were not Muslim, Jewish, or Christian, and especially referred to followers of polytheistic (i.e., many gods) religions.

Because of the negative connotations that many in society held of non-Christian relgions, pagans were considered sinners, heathens, or hedonists. Today, rightly or wrongly, many of those connotations still hold.

Answer to the quick quiz above:

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