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Thread: Etymology of the word "Heathen"?

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    Senior Member Vanir's Avatar
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    Etymology of the word "Heathen"?

    Well, you learn something new everyday.

    I always thought that "pagan" was the word of Christian origin used to describe the non-christian inhabitants of a given land (which is why I have always winced hearing the word "pagan") whilst "heathen" stemmed from ON "Heiðni" (as I read in the dictionary when young) leading me to believe that heithinn was a germanic word the early germanic peoples used to name their ancestral ways in general. Not exactly correct it seems Even a "best possible scenario" sees it as merely a Gothic interpretation of a term of a foreign word.

    In my own defence, the term is a rather slippery one, and only got past my goalkeeper due to those accursed Goths incorporating it into the general germanic lexicon as a weasel-word at a point early enough for it to spread throughout the germanic tribes.


    Heathen
    http://www.wordorigins.org/wordorh.htm
    This word for non-Christian or pagan is common in all the Germanic languages. It appears in Old English as hâþen in the year 826. It clearly arose after Christianity, but had to be quite early for it to appear in all the Germanic tongues, sometime in the 4th century or earlier. Most words of this age have unclear etymologies, but this is not the case with heathen.

    It is believed to have originated in Gothic and spread to the other Germanic tribes. In the 4th century, Ulfilas, bishop of the Goths, translated the Bible into Gothic. In Mark 7:26, which reads "Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth...," Ulfilas used the word haiþnô in place of Greek, or as it appears in the Vulgate gentilis, or gentile. Haiþnô literally means dweller on the heath. So the original sense is remarkably the same as the modern sense, someone living beyond the bounds of civilization and who has not received the word of God.

    So, heathen has a remarkably similar semantic history as pagan.

    This hypothesis is not universally accepted however. Some point out that Ulfilas may have been influenced by Armenian and that heathen instead is related to the Armenian het'anos, which is derived from the Greek ethnos, meaning nation or people.
    ---

    heathen
    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=heathen
    O.E. hæðen "not Christian or Jewish," merged with O.N. heiðinn. Historically assumed to be from Goth. haiþno "gentile, heathen woman," used by Ulfilas in the first translation of the Bible into a Gmc. language (cf. Mark 7:26, for "Greek"); if so it could be a derivative of Goth. haiþi "dwelling on the heath," but this sense is not recorded. It may have been chosen on model of L. paganus (see pagan), or for resemblance to Gk. ethne (see gentile), or may in fact be a borrowing of that word, perhaps via Armenian hethanos. Like other words for exclusively Christian ideas (e.g. church) it would have come first into Gothic, then spread to other Gmc. languages.
    I wonder did our ancestors even have a neat & tidy word to name their folk beliefs...

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    Maybe "Forn Siðr" (Old Way) or better Vor Siður (Our Way) could have been used. Ásatrú is actually a modern word (coined somewhen in the 1885 as far as I remember). The same goes for Vanatrú.
    Lík börn leika best.

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    Question Etymology of the word "Heathen"?

    I know that HEATHEN is Greek word which means – NATIONAL IDEOLOGY, NATIONALIST …. (I am right ? )

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    You mean the etymology of the work "heathen" being Greek? Hm...maybe partly so...

    Heathen

    Heathen is from Old English hæðen "not Christian or Jewish", (c.f. Old Norse heiðinn). Historically, the term was probably influenced by Gothic haiþi "dwelling on the heath", appearing as haiþno in Ulfilas' bible as "gentile woman," (translating the "Hellene" in Mark 7:26). This translation probably influenced by Latin paganus, "country dweller", or it was chosen because of its similarity to the Greek ethne, "gentile". It has even been suggested that Gothic haiþi is not related to "heath" at all, but rather a loan from Armenian hethanos, itself loaned from Greek ethnos.
    Wikipedia

    "Ethnikos" ('national') is not used in the sense of (political) nationalism here, but in the sense of those who adhere to the native religion :bub

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    My understanding of this also is that it is pertinent to the worship of more than one deity, as opposed to the monotheistic ideal.

    It doesn't imply nationalism, although there certainly can be a tribal aspect in the love of one's own kinfolk and nation. We mustn't get confused with the National Socialism that arose out of Germany during the 3rd Reich - if anything, they held the opposite view of what the Heathens of old always upheld.

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    cyfarchion

    I have always read it to mean "of the heath" ie country/rustic and in this it is the same as pagan which means the same thing but from a different word (escapes me right now). I also think it was a way for the church to refer to those outside the christian faith as it implied that country or rustic folk would be backward. I have not heard it having anything to do with nationalism before and I don't think thenumber of deities matters either. Surely the muslims would have been regarded as heathens by the christian church and that is definitely monotheistic

    wasshael

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