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

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 But Yang didn’t want to become consumed by Barbie in the way so many zealots are. Anne Branigin, Washington Post, 15 July 2023 Mantis from the Guardians of the Galaxy films, are A.I. zealots or simply superior thugs-for-hire. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 5 July 2023 To the bemusement of zealots on both sides of the culture wars, the decision was unanimous. Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, National Review, 30 June 2023 Tyrants, philistines, religious zealots and hysterical parents have been banning books for as long as anyone can remember. A.o. Scott, New York Times, 21 June 2023 Like zealots of any religion, many believe their cause is worth any kind of sacrifice and violence. Lucan Ahmad Way, Foreign Affairs, 20 June 2023 In its wake, Netanyahu’s settler zealot finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, designed a fiscal scheme that would disproportionately tax richer, more secular municipalities to pay for services to poorer settlements and Orthodox communities. Bernard Avishai, The New Yorker, 17 June 2023 The young women absorbing this wisdom were not necessarily zealots. Kara Voght, Washington Post, 15 June 2023 Trouble is, Davit heads a prolific criminal sect of religious zealots called the Nagazi with his equally unhinged, overly protective brother Zurab (Tornike Gogrichiani), who will stop at nothing in the name of revenge. Courtney Howard, Variety, 15 June 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 23 Sep. 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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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