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

The zeitgeist, however, indicates something of seismic proportions is afoot. Wendell Nii Laryea Adjetey, Twin Cities, "Wendell Nii Laryea Adjetey: Why now is the moment to atone for 400 years of racism," 28 July 2019 The show's beauty influence in our zeitgeist even managed to transcend its time. Audrey Noble, Vogue, "16 of the Most Iconic Gossip Girl Beauty Looks," 20 July 2019 The series has been something of a surprise hit for the network, slowly filtering into the zeitgeist (even inspiring tourism), because of its devastating subject matter, as well as stunning writing and performances. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, "Did you love 'Chernobyl'? Then watch 'The Terror' next," 17 June 2019 Hence the catch: Empowerment is crackling through the zeitgeist, and The Handmaid’s Tale wants to deliver it, but its continuation also depends on June being a prisoner of Gilead for a good while longer. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The Empty Empowerment of The Handmaid’s Tale," 5 June 2019 Still, in recent seasons feathers—both real and faux—have reentered the zeitgeist, the marabou look coming back on the trim of a trouser here (Miu Miu), on the sleeve of a blazer there (Rachel Comey), or in the most OTT of cases, all over. Glamour, "If You Want a Big Style Moment in 2019, Bring On the Feathers," 10 Apr. 2019 But at 76, DeLauro is suddenly out of step with the zeitgeist of a Democratic party that is perceived to be moving sharply to the left. Daniela Altimari, courant.com, "As Democrats drift left, liberal firebrand Rep. Rosa DeLauro finds herself squarely in the center," 18 Aug. 2019 Ralph Reed, chairman of the socially conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition, compared Trump's ability to capture the cultural zeitgeist to another political figure who transcended politics and entered the mainstream of popular culture. Anchorage Daily News, "Analysis: Trump dials up culture wars in divisive play for 2020 votes," 13 Aug. 2019 As much as the Bachelor franchise has evolved over the years, the last few seasons have really tapped into the cultural zeitgeist. Jessica Radloff, Glamour, "Chris Harrison Says There's 'More to Demi's Story' on Bachelor in Paradise," 6 Aug. 2019

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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Statistics for zeitgeist

Last Updated

15 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for zeitgeist

The first known use of zeitgeist was in 1835

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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

Comments on zeitgeist

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miscellaneous remnants or debris

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