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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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 Recent findings challenge the notion that individuals become zombies in groups or that they can be easily brainwashed by charismatic zealots. Stephen D. Reicher, Scientific American, "Fueling Terror: How Extremists Are Made," 25 Mar. 2016 Climate-change deniers are going to deny, and some of those who accept that global warming is real are going to be zealots — and will come off just as cartoonishly as their foils. Greg Jefferson, ExpressNews.com, "Jefferson: USAA is feeling the heat from climate change," 24 Jan. 2020 When cultural zealots court a cynical politician, all bets are off. John King, SFChronicle.com, "Trump’s next target could be his most cynical yet — modern architecture," 9 Feb. 2020 But Kabul teems with warlords and mercenaries, zealots and spies – and Saul needs the relationships and expertise that only his protégé can provide. Lynette Rice, EW.com, "Carrie's loyalty to Saul is tested in latest Homeland trailer," 13 Jan. 2020 There are only a handful of games that the zealots in Michigan’s fan base care about: Michigan State, the Big Ten title, a national championship, and Ohio State. Detroit Free Press, "Mitch Albom: Michigan football's sickening reality: Ohio State is just better," 1 Dec. 2019 To Hassan, Trump followers are deluded zealots with a soft spot for authoritarian figures. Marc Fisher, Washington Post, "The Republican Party is in thrall to Trump. Does that make him a cult leader?," 4 Oct. 2019 As factories closed and services withered, some free-market zealots in Moscow suggested that the city be put out of its misery and shut down. Andrew Higgins, New York Times, "It’s 50 Below. The Past Is a Horror Show. You’d Dream of Escaping Too.," 31 Dec. 2019 Monday will mark 25 years since the bitterly cold morning when antiabortion zealot John Salvi III went on a shooting rampage at two Brookline clinics. BostonGlobe.com, "A quarter century on, an indelible loss - The Boston Globe," 29 Dec. 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

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The first known use of zealot was in 1537

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Statistics for zealot

Last Updated

25 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Zealot.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zealot. Accessed 8 Apr. 2020.

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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

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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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