zeal·​ous ˈze-ləs How to pronounce zealous (audio)
: marked by fervent partisanship for a person, a cause, or an ideal : filled with or characterized by zeal
zealous missionaries
zealously adverb
zealousness noun

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Zealous vs. Jealous

Zealous and jealous share not just a rhyme, but an etymology. Both words ultimately come from the Latin zelus “jealousy,” and in the past their meanings were somewhat closer to each other than they are today. In the 16th and 17th centuries, zealous occasionally was used in biblical writing to refer to a quality of apprehensiveness or jealousy of another. By the 18th century, however, it had completely diverged in meaning from jealous, signifying “warmly engaged or ardent on behalf of someone or something.” Today, zealous often carries a connotation of excessive feeling: it typically means “fiercely partisan” or “uncompromisingly enthusiastic.”

Examples of zealous in a Sentence

I was zealous in my demands on my sisters for promptness in rehearsals. I was passionate, intolerant of small talk, hungry for knowledge, grabby, bossy, precocious. Lynn Margulis, Curious Minds, (2004) 2005
Sir Thomas was zealous in the pursuit of recusants, not poachers, and was otherwise an amiable man. S. Schoenbaum, Shakespeare's Lives, 1991
Zealous in his ministerial labours, blameless in his life and habits, he yet did not appear to enjoy that mental serenity, that inward content, which should be the reward of every sincere Christian and practical philanthropist. Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, 1847
He had no cause for self-reproach on the score of neglect, or want of thought, for he had been devoted to her service; and yet a hundred little occasions rose up before him, on which he fancied he might have been more zealous, and more earnest, and wished he had been. Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, 1838
The detective was zealous in her pursuit of the kidnappers.
Recent Examples on the Web On DoorDash, a few zealous drivers were nabbing the referral bonus in a single day and coming back the next day for another account. Lauren Smiley, WIRED, 10 July 2024 Of course, nobody was satisfied with the armistice of 1953, but some think-tank soldier somewhere might have taken pride in all the zealous pushing, pulling, entrenching, walling, razing, and shelling of the border into a complexity perfectly suited to our entropically evil world. William T. Vollmann, Harper's Magazine, 24 June 2024 The most zealous bunny huggers want to stop their hobby, or at least curtail it. Bill Laytner, Detroit Free Press, 1 July 2024 His zealous advocacy of Read led to his own arrest and indictment on charges of witness intimidation and wiretapping. Jessica Winter, The New Yorker, 1 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for zealous 

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

Word History

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of zealous was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near zealous

Cite this Entry

“Zealous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zealous. Accessed 22 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


zeal·​ous ˈzel-əs How to pronounce zealous (audio)
: filled with or showing zeal : marked by passionate support for a person, cause, or ideal
zealously adverb
zealousness noun

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