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 The interviews reveal how the Biden team inherited a pandemic at its zenith with a high demand for vaccines and little supply, along with no long-term plan to vaccinate millions of Americans. Ashley Semler, CNN, "Inside Biden's make-or-break first 100 days battling the Covid pandemic," 26 Apr. 2021 His own try for the White House, in 1984, came at the zenith of Ronald Reagan’s popularity. Rich Barak, ajc, "BREAKING: Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter’s vice president, dies at 93," 20 Apr. 2021 His own try for the White House, in 1984, came at the zenith of Ronald Reagan’s popularity. Dallas News, "Walter Mondale, Carter’s vice president, dies at 93," 20 Apr. 2021 It’s been 80 years since the Playa del Rey field reached its zenith as an oil producer, and nearly as long since Southern California Gas Co., now the country’s largest gas utility, began storing a different fossil fuel there. Los Angeles Times, "The next Aliso Canyon could happen on L.A.’s Westside," 7 Apr. 2021 At his zenith, not only did his name appear above his films’ titles, but his image and voice dominated every ad. Farran Smith Nehme, WSJ, "‘The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock’ Review: Dial M for Multiple," 26 Mar. 2021 The real-world story that began with Kirby trying to top himself at the dawn of the ’70s has reached a zenith. Abraham Riesman, Vulture, "The King’s Gambit," 18 Mar. 2021 And in this moment, at 47 years old, Hahn is finally hitting a career zenith in a genre dominated by buff dudes named Chris. Angela Watercutter, Wired, "The Magical Mystery of WandaVision’s Kathryn Hahn," 5 Mar. 2021 At mid-eclipse, the moon will appear in the zenith from Ouagadougou, the capital of the African nation of Burkina Faso. Joe Rao, Scientific American, "Minor Lunar Eclipse on Friday: How to See It," 17 Oct. 2013

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

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

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Last Updated

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Zenith.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zenith. Accessed 14 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for zenith



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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