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

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Synonyms for zero

Synonyms: Noun

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The running back amassed 817 rushing yards from when the calendar flipped to November until the clock hit zeroes in the season finale. Tyler Dragon,, "Cincinnati Bengals offseason awards: 2019 Team MVP," 3 Jan. 2020 There were eight zero-zeroes in 2018, and 35 in 2003., "Riding high," 2 Jan. 2020 Lincecum matched zeroes with Lee until Renteria’s three-run homer. Henry Schulman,, "Memorable moments: Tim Lincecum delivers S.F. Giants’ first World Series title," 29 Dec. 2019 The 18-page report zeroes in on Broward County while suggesting recommendations for districts statewide. Tonya Alanez,, "Danger imminent if schools don’t comply now with safety laws, grand jury report says," 11 Dec. 2019 The exhibit zeros in on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of young artists schooled at the Royal Academy of London, and their horror at some of the advances highlighted in the 1851 World’s Fair. Deborah Martin,, "‘Victorian Radicals’ say yes to sex, no to technology in San Antonio Museum of Art exhibit," 10 Oct. 2019 Halpert found the material in barns and antique shops throughout rural New England, buying it for next to nothing and then fixing a New York price — always add three zeros — and selling it to Rockefeller. Brian T. Allen, National Review, "Edith Halpert and American Modernism," 14 Dec. 2019 Amazon's complaint against Trump over the JEDI cloud computing contract zeroes in on the process of government contracting. Brian Fung, CNN, "Amazon claims Trump interfered with Pentagon contract in order to hurt Jeff Bezos," 9 Dec. 2019 More than an hour after the clock hit zeroes on Auburn’s wild Iron Bowl win against Alabama, Gus Malzahn stood in the southwest corner of Jordan-Hare Stadium, arm around his wife Kristi, taking it all in. Tom Green |, al, "Auburn salvages season, quiets the noise after wild Iron Bowl win," 1 Dec. 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 The case drew national attention in the 1980s, as investigators zeroed in on the couple — both University of Virginia students — in their investigation of the murders of Haysom’s parents: Derek, 72, and wife Nancy, 53. Washington Post, "Why some Germans applauded the return of a man convicted of a 1985 double murder in Virginia," 17 Dec. 2019 Lane Kiffin has zeroed in on UCF’s Jeff Lebby to be his offensive coordinator at @OleMissFB and hopes to finalize a deal with Lebby, who has been UCF’s QB coach the last two seasons and was the Knights’ OC this season. Matt Murschel,, "UCF QB coach Jeff Lebby reportedly drawing interest from Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss," 11 Dec. 2019 Florida State has zeroed in on Memphis’ Mike Norvell to be its next football coach, according to multiple reports. Creg Stephenson |, al, "Florida State zeroing in on Memphis’ Mike Norvell as next coach, reports say," 7 Dec. 2019 Democrats have zeroed in on the State Department in the opening phase of their impeachment investigation. Richard Lardner, Twin Cities, "2nd whistleblower adds to impeachment peril at White House," 6 Oct. 2019 But the biggest antagonist is overharvesting: Trees are being tapped too frequently, and because the ecosystem is stressed, natural regeneration has practically zeroed out. April Long, Town & Country, "Why Frankincense Is Suddenly So Smoking Hot," 5 Dec. 2019 Halliday’s investigation quickly zeroed in on two men, Jack Pearcy and James Dailey, who lived together and were new to Pinellas County. Pamela Colloff, ProPublica, "He’s a Liar, a Con Artist and a Snitch. His Testimony Could Soon Send a Man to His Death.," 4 Dec. 2019 The 2018-20 budget also zeroed out additional funds for professional development, leaving districts to pay for it themselves. Olivia Krauth, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky superintendents: Lawmakers need to tackle teacher shortage, restore funding," 29 Oct. 2019 Dokoupil zeroed in on a new Chevy Impala, but once again his hypothetical budget was shot. CBS News, "Can a middle-class budget buy a new American car? Probably not," 22 Nov. 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.

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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

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Statistics for zero

Last Updated

12 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Zero.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 17 January 2020.

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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

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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

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


a plan in which a last survivor takes all

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