zeal·​ot ˈze-lət How to pronounce zealot (audio)
: a zealous person
especially : a fanatical partisan
a religious zealot
capitalized : a member of a fanatical sect arising in Judea during the first century a.d. and militantly opposing the Roman domination of Palestine

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In the 1st century A.D., a fanatical sect arose in Judaea to oppose the Roman domination of Palestine. Known as the Zealots, they fought their most famous battle at the great fortress of Masada, where 1,000 defenders took their own lives just as the Romans were about to storm the fort. Over the years, zealot came to mean anyone who is passionately devoted to a cause. The adjective zealous may describe someone who's merely dedicated and energetic ("a zealous investigator", "zealous about combating inflation", etc.). But zealot (like its synonym fanatic) and zealotry (like its synonym fanaticism) are used disapprovingly—even while Jews everywhere still honor the memory of those who died at Masada.

Examples of zealot in a Sentence

zealots on both sides of the issue resorted to name-calling and scare tactics
Recent Examples on the Web Taylor, 52, and her cousins were raised to be zoo zealots. Olivia Diaz, Washington Post, 31 Oct. 2023 Israeli militants, too, sought to sabotage the accords, and in 1995 a young right-wing zealot assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. David Remnick, The New Yorker, 28 Oct. 2023 Aroma-Zone Natural beauty zealots are encouraged to head straight to Aroma Zone. Calin Van Paris, Vogue, 26 Sep. 2023 But critics say Eubank is a Christian zealot who is risking the lives of his family and followers in a vacuum of oversight. Jason Motlagh, Rolling Stone, 16 Apr. 2023 Piper Laurie, who is best-known for playing Carrie’s religious zealot mother in Carrie, has died. Vulture, 14 Oct. 2023 One faction, led by Bezalel Smotrich, an ultranationalist zealot and Israel’s current finance minister, represents the interests of the growing settler movement, which numbers more than 600,000 in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Ruth Margalit, New York Times, 27 Sep. 2023 Mao’s zealots destroyed many of the original temples in the 1960s, but in the late 1980s, the mountain’s mainly working-class visitors raised money to rebuild them, and for more than 30 years, the annual 15-day event was largely self-managed and self-financed. Ian Johnson, Foreign Affairs, 22 Aug. 2023 Assistant Federal Defender Mary Petras asked for time served, saying that Roseberry was no political zealot and that his conduct was not related to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack or the 2020 election. Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post, 16 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'zealot.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Late Latin zelotes, from Greek zēlōtēs, from zēlos

First Known Use

1537, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of zealot was in 1537

Dictionary Entries Near zealot

Cite this Entry

“Zealot.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zealot. Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


zeal·​ot ˈzel-ət How to pronounce zealot (audio)
: a zealous person
especially : an overly zealous supporter

More from Merriam-Webster on zealot

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