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 Robinhood Markets has certainly captured the zeitgeist of the moment. Telis Demos, WSJ, "Having Stolen the Spotlight, Now Robinhood Has to Dance," 18 June 2020 Saul aren’t enough for a trend, and available metrics don’t suggest a zeitgeist. Darren Franich, EW.com, "The death and life of the lawyer show," 18 June 2020 Everyone's wearing masks and elbow bumping, putting this fully into the 2020 zeitgeist. Sebastian Blanco, Car and Driver, "Ferrari SF90 Stradale Stars in Promotional Rehash of Classic Speed-Driving Short Film," 15 June 2020 The statement was an acknowledgment of the zeitgeist. Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, "Big Tech’s Pandemic Power Grab," 12 June 2020 Now even Mordhau's come and gone from the zeitgeist, so…we'll see. Hayden Dingman, PCWorld, "IGN Summer Gaming Expo kicks off with trailers for Mortal Shell, Wasteland 3, and more," 10 June 2020 Faux meat had already catapulted to the zeitgeist last year, captured in the blistering initial public offering for Beyond Meat. Jen Skerritt, Bloomberg.com, "Half of Americans Want Meat-Free Options After Industry’s Crisis," 7 June 2020 The program has shown an ability to respond to the zeitgeist before. NBC News, "Jury's out on how police procedurals will change in the wake of George Floyd killing," 15 July 2010 Through the power of direct action and partnering with popular non-Native public figures like Jane Fonda and Marlon Brando, Red Power vaulted conversations about self-determination into the mainstream American zeitgeist. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "The Rebirth of Red Power," 1 June 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

26 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Zeitgeist.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zeitgeist. Accessed 5 Jul. 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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