What Does Pagan Mean?

A gathering of pagans celebrating solstice at Stonehenge.
... Matt Cardy/Getty Images News/Getty Images

"Pagan" is a word that emerged in the late 14th century. It can be both a noun and an adjective, and its meaning has shifted throughout the centuries. In modern parlance, the term "pagan" can be both a noun describing a person who adheres to paganism, or an adjective meaning of or related to paganism.

1 Defining "Pagan"

"Pagan" comes from the Latin "paganus," which is a noun meaning "villager" or an adjective meaning "of the village." However, it is most often used in religious terms to refer to polytheistic, pre-Christian peoples. In Roman times, pagan was a term used to distinguish Christians from those who held onto their pre-Christian, polytheistic and earth-based religions. Nowadays, paganism can include the worship of the Goddess, the female deity replacing or complementing the Christian God; the belief in the mystical quality of nature; or the recognition of a plurality of gods.

Parker Janney is a web developer and writer based in Philadelphia. With a Master of Arts in international politics, she has been ghostwriting for several underground publications since the late 2000s, with works featured in "Virtuoso," the "Philadelphia Anthropology Journal" and "Clutter" magazine.