\ ˈzen How to pronounce Zen (audio) \

Definition of Zen

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a Japanese sect of Mahayana Buddhism that aims at enlightenment by direct intuition through meditation
2 or zen : a state of calm attentiveness in which one's actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort Perhaps that is the zen of gardening—you become one with the plants, lost in the rhythm of the tasks at hand.— Irene Virag

Definition of Zen (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : of, relating to, or associated with Zen Buddhism a Zen monk/priest/master
2a : suggestive of the teachings or practice of Zen Buddhism Paddling, itself, is a Zen art: Anyone can do it, yet you can spend a lifetime perfecting it.— Jim Albrecht
b : having or showing qualities (such as meditative calmness and an attitude of acceptance) popularly associated with practitioners of Zen Buddhism "I hate to use this word, but Owen is very 'Zen,'" said Rita Nagel, a vice president at Goldman, Sachs. "When some traders start losing money they get nervous. Owen stays very relaxed."

First Known Use of Zen


1727, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1872, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for Zen


Japanese, religious meditation

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about Zen

Statistics for Zen

Cite this Entry

“Zen.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Zen. Accessed 3 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for Zen


How to pronounce Zen (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of Zen

: a Japanese form of Buddhism that emphasizes meditation

More from Merriam-Webster on Zen

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with Zen

Britannica English: Translation of Zen for Arabic Speakers

Comments on Zen

What made you want to look up Zen? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

July 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • papercraft sunset
  • Which is a synonym of mien?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!