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 members themselves are selected by merit and accomplishment and compose the zenith of the British art world. Brian T. Allen, National Review, "The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition Takes a Traditional Turn," 13 July 2019 An example of what the Hollywood studio system at its zenith could produce -- a spectacle on a grand scale, with acting, production, and supporting talent at every level. Breeanna Hare, CNN, "We asked what you consider a 'classic movie.' These are your picks," 11 Aug. 2019 Latino representation is at its zenith in the Legislature and strong too in the delegation to Congress. John Myers, latimes.com, "Nearly all of California’s crises are worse in its Latino communities, new report says," 14 July 2019 The tiny-sunglasses trend has quite possibly reached its zenith. Madeline Fass, Vogue, "Matrix Sunglasses Fatigue? Here Are 13 Square Frames That Will Stand the Test of Time," 9 Aug. 2018 All of the popularity that Highlands Ranch has had with homebuyers over the years reached a zenith when developer Shea Homes opened BackCountry, seen as the 22,000-acre community’s final chapter in its 30-year buildout. Mark Samuelson, The Denver Post, "In Highlands Ranch’s BackCountry, 6-bed home has view to match its outdoor living space, $1.189M," 14 June 2019 These paradox-ridden places are where gravity reaches its zenith and Einstein’s general relativity theory fails. Natalie Wolchover, WIRED, "Space and Time Could Be a Quantum Error-Correcting Code," 6 Jan. 2019 The big-screen TV fell forward off the wall as the quake reached its zenith. Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY, "'Scared to death': 7.1 earthquake follows 6.4, leaving Ridgecrest residents fearful, resilient," 6 July 2019 Dessau, just 40 minutes away, was where Bauhaus reached its zenith when the school moved here in 1925. Margo Pfeiff, latimes.com, "Exploring the birthplace of Bauhaus, a German movement that changed design," 16 June 2019

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

8 Sep 2019

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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

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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Comments on zenith

What made you want to look up zenith? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


formidable, illustrious, or eminent

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