zeal·​ot | \ ˈze-lət How to pronounce zealot (audio) \

Definition of zealot

1 : a zealous person especially : a fanatical partisan a religious zealot
2 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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Synonyms & Antonyms for zealot



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Did You Know?

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 There was the order of religious zealots who, over the course of a few quests, revealed their nuances in ways that overrode their potential cliches. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "The Outer Worlds review: Fall deeply into the best Fallout-like game in years," 22 Oct. 2019 Waititi’s over-the-top, boy-zealot’s ideal of Hitler is hardly a sympathetic character, and Sam Rockwell’s disgruntled, disillusioned and defeated but nevertheless loyal Capt. Chuck Yarborough, cleveland, "‘Jojo Rabbit’: Is it a chilling black comedy about yesterday . . . or today?," 28 Oct. 2019 The survivor of several alien attacks is the only woman on a prison planet with a doctor, thugs, zealots and a horrific monster. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week Sept. 15, 2019: ‘Alien,’ ‘Aliens’ and more," 13 Sep. 2019 Mr Akin was inspired to make the movie after reading in 2013 that a gay-pride event in Tbilisi had been harassed by thugs and zealots. The Economist, "A culture clash in the Caucasus," 29 Aug. 2019 Trump’s most influential remaining adviser is Stephen Miller, the anti-immigration zealot who survives by applauding and reinforcing Trump’s worst instincts. Eugene Robinson, The Mercury News, "Robinson: The unhinged presidency," 25 Aug. 2019 That 's more than the 104 people killed on U.S. soil by zealots linked to Al Qaeda or other foreign Islamist groups, the chief FBI focus since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Author: Del Quentin Wilber, Anchorage Daily News, "FBI struggles to confront right-wing terrorism," 11 Aug. 2019 One highlight relays a bizarre plot by a Confederate zealot to infect Abraham Lincoln with yellow fever; another passage explains the ancient Egyptian habit of fighting malarial fevers by bathing in urine. The Economist, "A history of humankind’s enemy number one," 1 Aug. 2019 Land of Israel zealots will no longer be in control of the education ministry; the prerogatives of the Supreme Court will be preserved. Bernard Avishai, The New Yorker, "The Israeli Election Is Next Week, and Unprecedented Alliances Are Moving Against Netanyahu," 10 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'zealot.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of zealot

1537, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for zealot

Late Latin zelotes, from Greek zēlōtēs, from zēlos

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Time Traveler for zealot

Time Traveler

The first known use of zealot was in 1537

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Statistics for zealot

Last Updated

3 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Zealot.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Zealots. Accessed 6 December 2019.

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More Definitions for zealot


How to pronounce zealot (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of zealot

often disapproving : a person who has very strong feelings about something (such as religion or politics) and who wants other people to have those feelings : a zealous person

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More from Merriam-Webster on zealot

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for zealot

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with zealot

Spanish Central: Translation of zealot

Nglish: Translation of zealot for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about zealot

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very cautious or careful

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