noun, often capitalized
zeit·​geist | \ ˈtsīt-ˌgīst How to pronounce zeitgeist (audio) , ˈzīt- How to pronounce zeitgeist (audio) \

Definition of zeitgeist

: the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era

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Did You Know?

Scholars have long maintained that each era has a unique spirit, a nature or climate that sets it apart from all other epochs. In German, such a spirit is known as "Zeitgeist," from the German words Zeit, meaning "time," and Geist, meaning "spirit" or "ghost." Some writers and artists assert that the true zeitgeist of an era cannot be known until it is over, and several have declared that only artists or philosophers can adequately explain it. We don’t know if that’s true, but we do know that "zeitgeist" has been a useful addition to the English language since at least 1835.

Examples of zeitgeist in a Sentence

His songs perfectly captured the zeitgeist of 1960s America.
Recent Examples on the Web Or so say the zeitgeist pollsters and travel forecasters. Michael S. Hopkins, The Christian Science Monitor, "In the staycation era, the art of deliberate escape," 21 May 2020 Which is why some TV people have developed their own highly unscientific methods for determining if their shows have entered the zeitgeist. Gerry Smith, Bloomberg.com, "Netflix Won’t Share Crucial Data, So TV Producers Are Piecing It Together Themselves," 10 May 2020 In the case of Dead Wake, Larson uses the tragic sinking of Lusitania as an entry point to explore the zeitgeist of the early days of the First World War. Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati.com, "Doc's Morning Line: Here's the one thing you're not hearing about MLB's plan to play games," 7 May 2020 Greggs is Britain's most popular food brand, according to polling company YouGov, and rival restaurant chains are unable to break its hold over Britain's cultural and food zeitgeist. Rob Picheta, CNN, "Vegan sausages and clever marketing have helped this low-cost chain take over Britain," 14 Jan. 2020 Julia Moskin, a reporter on our Food desk, took a deep dive into how Mrs. Gaines felt her way into the domestic zeitgeist and became a star with legions of fans. Remy Tumin, New York Times, "Task Force, Meat Shortage, Madagascar: Your Tuesday Evening Briefing," 5 May 2020 Vegan food has made its way into the zeitgeist at an exponentially fast pace in the past few years as health and environmental concerns become part of everyday conversation. Liza Weisstuch, Washington Post, "Where to find the best vegan dining in Manhattan," 14 Feb. 2020 Of all the newcomers, though, no vehicle highlights the current sports-car zeitgeist quite like a mid-engine Hyundai. Eric Tingwall, Car and Driver, "Hyundai's Mid-Engine Sports Car Will Take on Supra and Nissan Z," 24 Apr. 2020 These recent hair tutorials are perfect for learning how to achieve some nineties styles that have made their way back into the Black hair zeitgeist in this new decade. Shalwah Evans, Essence, "5 Nineties Hairstyles To Practice On Natural Hair During Quarantine," 22 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'zeitgeist.' 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 zeitgeist

1835, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for zeitgeist

German, from Zeit + Geist spirit

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Time Traveler for zeitgeist

Time Traveler

The first known use of zeitgeist was in 1835

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Last Updated

25 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Zeitgeist.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zeitgeist. Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for zeitgeist


How to pronounce zeitgeist (audio) How to pronounce zeitgeist (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of zeitgeist

: the general beliefs, ideas, and spirit of a time and place

More from Merriam-Webster on zeitgeist

Nglish: Translation of zeitgeist for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of zeitgeist for Arabic Speakers

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