ze·​ro | \ˈzē-(ˌ)rō, 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 in investigators are zeroing in on a suspect

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Examples of zero in a Sentence


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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

This is by far the longest a tournament has stretched without being blighted by those double zeroes on the scoreboard when the final whistle blew. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "Sorry soccer haters, but this World Cup is absolutely awesome," 25 June 2018 When the clock struck zeroes, Our Lady of Peace lacrosse goalie Jenelle Cedillo lifted her stick skyward and slammed it to the turf in celebration. Don Norcross,, "D-II girls lacrosse: Pilots’ triumph gets party started," 12 May 2018 To put that in perspective, an octillion is a one with 27 zeros after it. Jared Gilmour, miamiherald, "Teacher was raped and murdered in 1992. Gum left at a school just caught the killer, Pa. cops say," 27 June 2018 Please note: your account number is numeric only, 5-8 digits long, and does not require the magazine code (such as SCA) or the leading zeros that appear on the mailing label. Scientific American, "Frequently Asked Questions," 19 June 2018 The bullpen nailed it down for the rookie with zeroes over the final three innings. Craig Davis,, "Trevor Richards notches first big-league win as Marlins down Giants again," 13 June 2018 And Tom Irwin, who is vicious — like a rooster seeing a speck of blood — he just zeros in for the kill! Nina Metz,, "My worst moment: 'Chicago P.D.'s' Amy Morton recalls the job that required her to dress as a sea nymph," 12 June 2018 After abandoning grand plans to build its own self-driving car, Apple is working with Volkswagen to put its zeros and ones on wheels, the Times reports. Alex Davies, WIRED, "This Week in the Future of Cars: Burn, Baby, Burn," 25 May 2018 Here, Riley zeroes in on the performances black employees in Silicon Valley and beyond must undertake just to exist in the same space as their white colleagues and bosses. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "Sorry to Bother You Has an Eerily Familiar Villain," 10 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

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

This time around, though, Lively is zeroing in on a specific silhouette: the suit. Ana Colon, Glamour, "The Blake Lively Guide to Buying a Fall Suit," 27 Aug. 2018 And that doesn’t appear to be the only time the Biscayne Park police zeroed in on one person and framed him for a host of crimes. Adam K. Raymond, Daily Intelligencer, "Florida Police Chief Told Cops to Arrest Random Black People to Boost Stats," 12 July 2018 Kavanaugh's meetings came as Democrats zeroed in on decade-old call to shield presidents from criminal investigation. Fox News, "FOX NEWS FIRST: Anti-Trump FBI lovebird defies subpoena; Trump slams 'inappropriate' Russia deal at NATO summit," 11 July 2018 Golliver asked him the most Open Floor questions possible, zeroing in on a number of topics including the NBA draft, LeBron James Jr. and more. Ben Golliver,, "How Should LeBron Announce His Decision? C.J. McCollum Weighs In," 29 June 2018 Goldman and Blackstone last week effectively zeroed out the trade between them, with Blackstone agreeing to assume Goldman’s position, people familiar with the matter said. WSJ, "Goldman, Blackstone Make Peace in Credit-Derivative Standoff," 24 May 2018 All of Blade’s interests collide in the Fellowship, his long-running jazz band that zeroes in on a kind of spiritual Americana. Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader, "Drummer Brian Blade funnels his disparate interests into the Fellowship Band," 11 May 2018 Both Regus and WeWork are scouting for additional real estate downtown, zeroing in on distinctive buildings in the East Village and Little Italy neighborhoods, Hulse said. Jennifer Van Grove,, "Splashy co-working spaces are here to stay in San Diego," 9 May 2018 The office building was virtually empty as Tipton ran test after test, zeroing in on the possible winning numbers for an upcoming $4.8 million lottery jackpot drawing in Colorado. Jason Clayworth, USA TODAY, "The untold story of how a gaming geek with a checkered past pulled off the biggest lottery scam in U.S. history," 26 Mar. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of zero


1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1810, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1913, 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

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Statistics for zero

Last Updated

16 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for zero

The first known use of zero was in 1598

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More Definitions for zero



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)

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


ze·​ro | \ˈzē-rō, 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, ˈzi(ə)r-(ˌ)ō \
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

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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

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by force of circumstances

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