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

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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 An anti-gun zealot, Vullo tried to use that power to pressure insurers that partnered with the NRA to sell insurance to its members. The Editors, National Review, 3 June 2024 On July 17, 1928, Obregón was assassinated outside Mexico City by José León Toral, a zealot Catholic, because of the president’s anti-clerical role in Mexico’s Cristero War, 1926-1929. Richard J. Gonzales, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 18 May 2024 Free and fair elections and the sacred rights of voters are being threatened in 2024 by ideological zealots in the Democrat Party. Baltimore Sun Media, Baltimore Sun, 11 Apr. 2024 Unless anti-trans zealots are willing to ban sports bras, bandages, tape, shapewear, or even swimsuits and tight shirts, there is no way to render binding completely inaccessible. TIME, 8 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for zealot 

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 16 Jun. 2024.

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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