zeitgeist

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

Cultural critics have variously found vampires to be walking reproaches to colonialism, capitalism, sexism, technological hubris and anything else gnawing on the conscience of the zeitgeist. Daniel Akst, WSJ, "‘The Vampire’ Review: Creatures Made for Haunting," 30 Oct. 2018 Films that spawn decades of sequels initially become part of the zeitgeist for a reason, no doubt, and broad trends in the genre often reflect the cultural anxieties of the moment. Bryan Bishop, The Verge, "The new Halloween is a slasher movie with an actual message," 19 Oct. 2018 Even though the Jonas Brothers disbanded in 2013, the boys, especially Nick Jonas and Joe Jonas, are still very much a part of the cultural zeitgeist. Allie Gemmill, Teen Vogue, "The Jonas Brothers and Their Fans Celebrate 10 Years Since "A Little Bit Longer"," 13 Aug. 2018 But his replacement will also need his ability to pick up the cultural zeitgeist, stay one step ahead, and retain the crucial juxtaposition between chic and cheap that worked so well. Andrea Felsted, The Seattle Times, "Karl Lagerfeld’s legacy is more than just Chanel suits," 19 Feb. 2019 While Feiping embodies the current zeitgeist of fashionable women in Asia, the Yeoh sisters undoubtedly represent the future. Harper's BAZAAR, "Crazy Rich Couture," 15 Aug. 2018 The #MeToo movement has pushed issues of consent to the foreground of our cultural zeitgeist. Jessie Patella-rey, chicagotribune.com, "Want to figure out the rules of sexual consent? Ask sex workers.," 21 May 2018 In a perfect Venn diagram of a marketing stunt, the coffee-slash-donut chain has zeroed in on the cultural zeitgeist of experiential marketing and paired it with the insatiable hunger for all things tiny homes. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "You can now stay in a tiny house powered by coffee," 24 Oct. 2018 Together the digitally savvy pair pulls inspiration from social media, obscure comic books, even an inkling that something is about to pop in the zeitgeist. Taylor Rainbolt, Glamour, "Alana Mayo, Michael B. Jordan's Secret Weapon, Is Poised to Take Over Hollywood," 12 Oct. 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near zeitgeist

zeiform

zein

zeitgeber

zeitgeist

Zelkoua

zelkova

Zeman

Statistics for zeitgeist

Last Updated

14 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for zeitgeist

The first known use of zeitgeist was in 1835

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More Definitions for zeitgeist

zeitgeist

noun

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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