ze·​nith | \ˈzē-nəth, 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

The same was also true for one of the film’s stars, Megan Fox, who was reaching the zenith of her considerable fame after the second Transformers movie dominated that summer’s box office. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "The life, death, and rebirth of Jennifer’s Body, according to screenwriter Diablo Cody," 10 Nov. 2018 Bavarians have long been drawn to local luxuries, and the German obsession with quality might reach its zenith here. Adam H. Graham, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Perfect Long Weekend in Bavaria," 17 Sep. 2018 This weekend will be another story, with a very dangerous combination of heat, high humidity and abundant sunshine near its zenith, resulting in heat indexes well in excess of 100 degrees likely. Tom Skilling, chicagotribune.com, "One more day of sunny, low-humidity air," 13 June 2018 But when that zenith lies over North Korea, where the Kim clan is apotheosized as supernatural beings, leadership brings booming isolation. Charlie Campbell / Beijing, Time, "All Signs Suggest North Korea's Kim Jong Un Really Wants to Make a Deal," 8 June 2018 The Spec-Tater represents man’s zenith in this regard, and maybe also his nadir. Jon Tayler, SI.com, "Feast Mode: Some of the Best (And Craziest) Ballpark Food for the 2018 MLB Season," 5 Apr. 2018 Notably, 25 of the 28 titles achieved the feat between 1993 and 2000, arguably during the R&B genre’s zenith in widespread popularity. Trevor Anderson, Billboard, "Drake's 'God's Plan' Ties Record for Fastest Trip to Top 10 on Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Chart," 7 Feb. 2018 But at their zeniths the East India Company, US Steel and AT&T made ROES of only about 10%, and IBM managed about 20%. The Economist, "History’s biggest firms," 5 July 2018 And just now may be the high tide, the zenith, of construction projects. Carl Nolte, SFChronicle.com, "Streets of San Francisco are always being dug up," 30 June 2018

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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Statistics for zenith

Last Updated

1 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for zenith

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

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More Definitions for zenith



English Language Learners Definition of zenith

: the strongest or most successful period of time

: the highest point reached in the sky by the sun, moon, etc.


ze·​nith | \ˈzē-nəth \

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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