A pagoda is a tiered tower built in the traditions originating in historic East Asia or with respect to those traditions, with multiple eaves common in Nepal, India, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Burma and other parts of Asia. Some pagodas are used as Taoist houses of worship. Most pagodas were built to have a religious function, most commonly Buddhist, and were often located in or near viharas. This term may refer to other religious structures in some countries. In Vietnam and Cambodia, due to French translation, the English term pagoda is a more generic term referring to a place of worship, although pagoda is not an accurate word to describe a Buddhist vihara. The modern pagoda is an evolution of the Ancient Nepalstupa, a tomb-like structure where sacred relics could be kept safe and venerated. The architectural structure of the stupa has spread across Asia, taking on many diverse forms as details specific to different regions are incorporated into the overall design.
One proposed etymology is from the southern Chinese pronunciation of eight cornered pagoda,"Pa-Ko-Ta" [八角塔], and reinforced by the name of a famous pagoda encountered by many early european visitors to China, the "Pa-Zhou-Ta" [琶洲塔], standing just south of Canton (Guangzhou) at the Whampoa Anchorage. Another proposed etymology is Persianbutkada, from but, "idol" and kada, "temple, dwelling." Another etymology, found in many English language dictionaries, is modern English pagoda from Portuguese (via Dravidian), from Sanskritbhagavati, feminine of bhagavatt, "blessed" from bhag, "good fortune".
Panel might have originally adorned a Buddhist structure, perhaps a pagoda somewhere in northernmost China. The Walters Art Museum.
The origin of the pagoda can be traced to the stupa (3rd century BC). The stupa, a dome shaped monument, was used as a commemorative monument associated with storing sacred relics. The stupa emerged as a distinctive style of newari architecture and was adopted in Southeast and East Asia. Nepali architect Araniko visited China and shared his skills to build stupa building in China. where it became prominent as a Buddhist monument used for enshrining sacred relics. In East Asia, the architecture of Chinese towers and Chinese pavilions blended into pagoda architecture, eventually also spreading to Southeast Asia. The pagoda's original purpose was to house relics and sacred writings. This purpose was popularized due to the efforts of Buddhist missionaries, pilgrims, rulers, and ordinary devotees to seek out, distribute, and extol Buddhist relics.
In an article on Buddhist elements in Han art, Wu Hung suggests that in these tombs, Buddhist iconography was so well incorporated into native Chinese traditions that a unique system of symbolism had been developed.
Diagram showing the various architectural features that comprise the design of the Shwedagon Pagoda
Pagodas attract lightning strikes because of their height. Many pagodas have a decorated finial at the top of the structure, and when made of metal, this finial, sometimes referred to as a "demon-arrester", can function as a lightning rod.[dubious– discuss] Also Pagodas come in many different sizes some may be small and others may be large.  Pagodas traditionally have an odd number of levels, a notable exception being the eighteenth century pagoda "folly" designed by Sir William Chambers at Kew Gardens in London.
The pagodas in Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia are very different from Chinese and Japanese pagodas. Pagodas in those countries are derived from Nepalistupas, and are commonly built with cement, concrete and bricks.
Some notable pagodas
Tiered towers with multiple eaves:
Pazhouta on Whampoa (Huangpu) Island, Guangzhou (Canton), China, built between 1597 and 1601
The Bombardier Pagoda, or Pagoda Tower, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This 13-story pagoda, used as the control tower for races such as the Indy 500, has been transformed several times since it was first built in 1913.