ze·​ro | \ ˈzē-(ˌ)rō How to pronounce zero (audio) , ˈzir-(ˌ)ō \
plural zeros also zeroes

Definition of zero

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : the arithmetical symbol 0 or 0̸ denoting the absence of all magnitude or quantity
b : additive identity specifically : the number between the set of all negative numbers and the set of all positive numbers
c : a value of an independent variable that makes a function equal to zero +2 and −2 are zeros of f(x)=x2−4
2 : the absence of a measurable quantity — see Table of Numbers
3a(1) : the point of departure in reckoning specifically : the point from which the graduation of a scale (as of a thermometer) begins
(2) : the temperature represented by the zero mark on a thermometer
b : the setting or adjustment of the sights of a firearm that causes it to shoot to point of aim at a desired range
4 : an insignificant person or thing : nonentity
5a : a state of total absence or neutrality
b : the lowest point : nadir
6 : something arbitrarily or conveniently designated zero

Definition of zero (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : of, relating to, or being a zero
b : having no magnitude or quantity : not any zero growth zero tolerance
c(1) : having no phonetic manifestation the zero modification in the past tense of cut
(2) : having no modified inflectional form a zero plural
2a of a cloud ceiling : limiting vision to 50 feet (15 meters) or less
b of horizontal visibility : limited to 165 feet (50.3 meters) or less


zeroed; zeroing; zeroes

Definition of zero (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to determine or adjust the zero of zero a rifle
2a : to concentrate firepower on the exact range of usually used with in
b : to bring to bear on the exact range of a target usually used with in

intransitive verb

1 : to adjust fire on a specific target usually used with in
2 : to close in on or focus attention on an objective usually used with ininvestigators are zeroing in on a suspect

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for zero

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of zero in a Sentence

Noun Two minus two equals zero. It's supposed to fall below zero tonight. The temperature is 10° above zero. They are working to reduce the mortality rate to zero.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun To hit net-zero in that case, negative emissions would have to grow to 125 million tons per year by 2045. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "Here’s what it could cost for California to hit zero-emissions goal," 4 Feb. 2020 Critically, the report found that there’s still time for the United States to hit net-zero emissions by midcentury. Amelia Nierenberg, New York Times, "One Thing Your City Can Do: Reduce Food Waste," 11 Dec. 2019 That government-bond yields in many countries are sub-zero bolsters the case. The Economist, "Europe’s manufacturing slowdown shows no sign of letting up," 26 Sep. 2019 And while Warren commits to investing $10.7 trillion towards sustainable infrastructure and pledges to achieve domestic net-zero emissions by 2030, Klobuchar’s plan is distinctly more modest. Abby Vesoulis / Ames, Time, "'Moderates Don’t Excite Us.' Amy Klobuchar Struggles To Win Over Young Voters," 30 Jan. 2020 But earlier efforts to adopt a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 were blocked by the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Poland. The Economist, "The World in 2020 It’s time for tighter goals to reduce emissions," 26 Dec. 2019 One is the unique series of ones and zeros, known as the code, that each GPS satellite transmits. Alexandra Witze, Smithsonian, "Five Things You Probably Didn’t Know GPS Could Do," 1 Nov. 2019 Each quantum computation starts and ends with a string of ones and zeros — classical bits — at the top of this assembly. Dennis Overbye, New York Times, "Quantum Computing Is Coming, Bit by Qubit," 21 Oct. 2019 The most important idea was using binary digits, just ones and zeroes, to represent all numbers and data. Doug Jacobson, The Conversation, "Curious Kids: What was the first computer?," 23 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Yet following an ineffective appearance last week against Clemson, Conley totaled exactly zero yards of total offense in playing almost the entirety of the second quarter Saturday night. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Despite Micale Cunningham's stellar play, Louisville seems content with 2-QB system," 27 Oct. 2019 There is a decidedly non-zero possibility that the federal government will shut down on Friday night. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "Brainstorm Health: Human CRISPR Trials, Hospital Run Drug Company, CHIP Extension," 18 Jan. 2018 Davis has played in just 13 NFL games, made zero appearances last year, and posted a passer rating of 66.2 in his three performances with the Browns in 2015. Matt Calkins, The Seattle Times, "Criticize Colin Kaepernick? Fine. But don’t withhold a job from him," 5 June 2017 There’s absolutely zero evidence that dogs or cats can contract or transmit the virus. Patty Khuly, miamiherald, "Should I worry that my dog or cat will get Zika?," 10 May 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb By now, investigators had zeroed in on Massa by subpoenaing Instagram for the user’s account info, and obtaining records associated with the phone number Kayg0ldi used to communicate with her victims. Justin Rohrlich, Quartz, "How not to steal $1.5 million: Inside an Instagram influencer’s alleged debit card scam," 15 Feb. 2020 Funds for new textbooks, zeroed out in the last budget, are only partially restored. Olivia Krauth, The Courier-Journal, "Gov. Andy Beshear makes good on promises to educators in 'education-first' budget," 28 Jan. 2020 First funded by President Barack Obama in 2009 but zeroed out repeatedly by Trump, congressional Republican have in recent years embraced its mission to accelerate the application of basic energy research into new technologies. David Malakoff, Science | AAAS, "Final 2020 spending bill is kind to U.S. research," 16 Dec. 2019 There is hope that the trial and error approach of the Haslams to these hires may finally be zeroing in on the magic formula needed for success. cleveland, "Haslams go headhunting for fifth time as owners of Cleveland Browns: Crowquill," 5 Jan. 2020 While western carmakers have been operating with local Chinese partners for years, and some of them are now zeroing in on electric cars. Laura He, CNN, "How Tesla's risky bet on making cars in China could pay off," 27 Dec. 2019 Johnson is zeroing in on those areas in the North and Wales, where his party tore into traditional Labour heartlands. Fox News, "Boris Johnson sets out ‘radical’ agenda on Brexit, health care after sweeping election win," 19 Dec. 2019 Congress is also clearly zeroing in on the company's acquisition strategy as part of its inquiry (PDF). Kate Cox, Ars Technica, "Antitrust 101: Why everyone is probing Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google," 5 Nov. 2019 Also, Japan is zeroing in on the absolute minutiae of scrumming technique to help with their relative lack of bulk. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Japan edging toward World Cup history 1 step at a time," 3 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'zero.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of zero


1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1821, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1911, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for zero


French or Italian; French zéro, from Italian zero, from Medieval Latin zephirum, from Arabic ṣifr

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about zero

Statistics for zero

Last Updated

23 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Zero.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for zero


How to pronounce zero (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of zero

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: the number 0
: the temperature shown by the zero mark on a thermometer
: nothing at all

English Language Learners Definition of zero (Entry 2 of 3)

: not any



English Language Learners Definition of zero (Entry 3 of 3)

technical : to set (a measuring device, such as a scale) so that it reads 0


ze·​ro | \ ˈzē-rō How to pronounce zero (audio) , ˈzir-ō \
plural zeros or zeroes

Kids Definition of zero

1 : the numerical symbol 0 meaning the absence of all size or quantity
2 : the point on a scale (as on a thermometer) from which measurements are made
3 : the temperature shown by the zero mark on a thermometer
4 : a total lack of anything : nothing His contribution was zero.


ze·​ro | \ ˈzē-(ˌ)rō How to pronounce zero (audio) , ˈzi(ə)r-(ˌ)ō How to pronounce zero (audio) \
plural zeros also zeroes

Medical Definition of zero

1 : the arithmetical symbol 0 or 0̸ denoting the absence of all magnitude or quantity
2a : the point of departure in reckoning specifically : the point from which the graduation of a scale (as of a thermometer) begins
b : the temperature represented by the zero mark on a thermometer

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on zero

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for zero

Spanish Central: Translation of zero

Nglish: Translation of zero for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of zero for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about zero

Comments on zero

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!