ze·​nith | \ ˈzē-nəth How to pronounce zenith (audio) , Canadian also and British usually ˈze-nəth, -nith \

Definition of zenith

1 : the point of the celestial sphere that is directly opposite the nadir and vertically above the observer — see azimuth illustration
2 : the highest point reached in the heavens by a celestial body
3 : culminating point : acme at the zenith of his powers— John Buchan

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Reaching the Zenith

When you reach the zenith, you're at the top, the pinnacle, the summit, the peak. Zenith developed from Arabic terms meaning "the way over one's head," and then traveled through Old Spanish, Medieval Latin, and Middle French before arriving in English. As long ago as the 1300s, English speakers used zenith to name the highest point in the celestial heavens, directly overhead. By the 1600s, zenith was being used for other high points as well. The celestial term is often contrasted with nadir, or the point that is vertically downward from the observer (imagine a line going through the earth from the observer's feet and out the other side into the sky). Figuratively, nadir simply means "the lowest point."

Examples of zenith in a Sentence

at the zenith of her career as a dancer
Recent Examples on the Web Ben van Beurden, Shell’s chief executive, said in 2017 that if electric cars become really popular, the zenith could arrive in the next 15 years. Jessica Shankleman And Grant Smith | Bloomberg, Washington Post, "Why Even Saudi Aramco Is Now Talking About ‘Peak Oil’," 15 Nov. 2019 Generations of feminists, and humans of various stripes, pushed for it — a movement that reached its zenith in the 1970s. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Poised between change and backlash, ‘Mrs. America’ is a seismic event," 15 Apr. 2020 The locusts moved west and south, reaching their zenith in Kenya in the early months of this year. Neha Wadekar, Quartz Africa, "Two new generations of locusts are set to descend on East Africa again—400 times stronger," 10 Apr. 2020 The series reached its zenith with the fifth installment, mixing open world madness with an ambitious story. Matthew Gault, Time, "The 10 Best Video Games of the 2010s," 19 Dec. 2019 When its football club was at its zenith, Liverpool was cratering—a cultural and economic cast-off in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, "Watching Liverpool’s Awesome, Fretful Return to the Top of English Soccer," 26 Feb. 2020 In my opinion, In Rainbows represents the zenith of a long sonic journey and 'Reckoner' is a personal highlight for me. Nick Williams, Billboard, "Listen to Bruno Major's TBT Mixtape, Inspired by DMT, Fantasia and More," 13 Feb. 2020 With the controversies about uranium leaks at their zenith, Fernald was especially vulnerable because lawsuits cost money. cincinnati.com, "Accused podcast, Season 3, Chapter 8: The nuclear wrap-up," 28 Jan. 2020 The statement hits its zenith when Rosa finds Mauritz in his study. Ariana Romero, refinery29.com, "Netflix’s Ares Pulled Off The Most Disturbing Finale Possible. This Is How To Make Sense Of It," 22 Jan. 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for zenith

Middle English cenyth, senyth, from Middle French cenit, from Medieval Latin, from Old Spanish zenit, modification of Arabic samt (al-ra's) way (over one's head)

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Time Traveler for zenith

Time Traveler

The first known use of zenith was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

18 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Zenith.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zenith. Accessed 25 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for zenith


How to pronounce zenith (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of zenith

formal : the strongest or most successful period of time
technical : the highest point reached in the sky by the sun, moon, etc.


ze·​nith | \ ˈzē-nəth How to pronounce zenith (audio) \

Kids Definition of zenith

1 : the point in the sky directly overhead
2 : the highest point or stage She was at the zenith of her career.

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