en·​thu·​si·​asm in-ˈthü-zē-ˌa-zəm How to pronounce enthusiasm (audio)
 also  -ˈthyü-
: strong excitement of feeling : ardor
did her work with energy and enthusiasm
: something inspiring zeal or fervor
his enthusiasms include sailing and fishing
: belief in special revelations of the Holy Spirit
: religious fanaticism

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What is the history of enthusiasm?

It may come as a surprise to many people, when they first look up the word enthusiasm, to see that its original meaning has to do with passion for religion, rather than passionate or eager interest in general. A brief explanation of the word’s etymology should clear this up. Enthusiasm entered the English language around the beginning of the 17th century. It was borrowed from the Greek enthousiasmos, meaning “inspiration or possession by a god.” For the first two hundred or so years that it was used in English, enthusiasm was primarily employed to refer to beliefs or passions that related to religion. By the beginning of the 18th century, however, the word began to be used to describe having strong feelings or interest in secular matters.

Choose the Right Synonym for enthusiasm

passion, fervor, ardor, enthusiasm, zeal mean intense emotion compelling action.

passion applies to an emotion that is deeply stirring or ungovernable.

gave in to his passions

fervor implies a warm and steady emotion.

read the poem aloud with great fervor

ardor suggests warm and excited feeling likely to be fitful or short-lived.

the ardor of their honeymoon soon faded

enthusiasm applies to lively or eager interest in or admiration for a proposal, cause, or activity.

never showed much enthusiasm for sports

zeal implies energetic and unflagging pursuit of an aim or devotion to a cause.

preaches with fanatical zeal

Examples of enthusiasm in a Sentence

Hour by hour, minute by minute, Guerrero is a racehorse, sitting upright in a chair, revising copy, clarifying names and places, sprinkling the reports with jokes while a producer talks in her ear—then delivering with breakneck speed and unflagging enthusiasm. Joel Drucker, Cigar Aficionado, May/June 2003
The Gower has a bewitching effect on my children. Perhaps it is because of having been cooped up in the car for four hours, but once we are negotiating the windy road along this southern Welsh peninsula, they are all gushing with enthusiasm. Emma Haughton, Times (London), 12 Aug. 2000
Now that he was awake, he couldn't understand how he could have slept through the racket the birds were making. "Oliver," Harry croaked. "It's the crack of dawn." "Exactly," said Wood. He was a tall and burly sixth year and, at the moment, his eyes were gleaming with a crazed enthusiasm. "It's part of our new training program. Come on, grab your broom, and let's go," said Wood heartily. "It's part of our new training program. Come on, grab your broom, and let's go," said Wood heartily. These days, even the wiliest brand-builders are at least a little anxious about the emerging teenage market, with its stylistic balkanization, shifting folkways and unpredictably spiking enthusiasms. J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, 1999
The party supported its candidate with enthusiasm. He seems to lack enthusiasm for the work he's doing. Among his latest enthusiasms are sailing and fishing. See More
Recent Examples on the Web How can anyone root for a player on the field who has announced such a lack of enthusiasm for the game? Los Angeles Times, 24 Feb. 2024 All original, all compelling, and all written with the enthusiasm of discovery. Jason O'Bryan, Robb Report, 24 Feb. 2024 By rewarding the creativity of its fan base, LEGO harnessed the collective enthusiasm of its community, turning loyal followers into active participants in the brand's ongoing story. Sandy Carter, Forbes, 23 Feb. 2024 Gavin possesses a deep moral character, faith, and thoughtfulness coupled with a great work ethic and enthusiasm. Shari Rudavsky, The Indianapolis Star, 23 Feb. 2024 But that doesn’t mean that there’s any lack of enthusiasm around the stock and its growth trajectory for the next few years, especially given its place in the larger market, according to Young. Carmen Reinicke, Fortune, 22 Feb. 2024 The Apollo moon landings from 1969 to 1972 became a paradigm for a colossal program that tackled a problem nearly impossible to solve with a near-limitless budget — the proverbial moonshot — while CLPS seeks to harness the enthusiasm and ingenuity of start-up entrepreneurs. Kenneth Chang, New York Times, 22 Feb. 2024 The library contacted me and I was immediately impressed with Gwenn’s enthusiasm. Bill Swank, San Diego Union-Tribune, 16 Feb. 2024 Fox News reported that Apple executives expressed their enthusiasm about how Vision Pro will benefit businesses of all kinds. Gene Marks, Forbes, 11 Feb. 2024 See More

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

Word History


borrowed from Late Latin & Greek; Late Latin enthūsiasmos "inspiration, frenzy," borrowed from Greek enthousiasmós, from enthousiázein "to be inspired or possessed by a god" (re-formation of entheázein —perhaps by crossing with thysiázein "to sacrifice"— verbal derivative of éntheos, énthous "possessed by a god, inspired," from en- en- entry 2 + -theos, adjectival derivative of theós "god") + -asmos, variant after -i- of -ismos -ism

First Known Use

1595, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

Time Traveler
The first known use of enthusiasm was in 1595

Dictionary Entries Near enthusiasm

Cite this Entry

“Enthusiasm.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enthusiasm. Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


en·​thu·​si·​asm in-ˈth(y)ü-zē-ˌaz-əm How to pronounce enthusiasm (audio)
: strong excitement and active interest
: something causing a feeling of excitement and active interest

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