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 in investigators are zeroing in on a suspect

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Synonyms for zero

Synonyms: Noun

aught, cipher, goose egg, naught (also nought), nil, nothing, o, oh, zilch, zip

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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

But the timing is perhaps all the plan gets right, because its ultimate goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 is neither bold nor new. Natasha Geiling, The New Republic, "The Democrats’ New Climate Plan Can’t Be Serious," 24 July 2019 Yet as deGrom zeroes in on a second consecutive Cy Young award, a pattern that began in 2018 has only worsened this year. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "Jacob deGrom on track for second straight Cy Young Award - and Mets still can't win for him," 4 Sep. 2019 Castro zeroes in on the judiciary Castro was the first Democrat on the stage to frame the 2020 election in terms what's at stake on the federal judicial bench. Tom Benning, Dallas News, "Four big moments for Texans Beto O'Rourke and Julián Castro in first Democratic presidential debate," 26 June 2019 If there is a big difference in their answers, the CDC zeroes in on a cause. Jim Prevor, WSJ, "Lettuce Try Not to Panic," 29 Nov. 2018 Timing is everything, especially as studios work to compete with mega-hitmaker Disney, whose Lion King remake blew past $1 billion and continues to rack up more ones and zeroes at the global box office. Isaac Feldberg, Fortune, "Box Office: ‘Scary Stories’ Spooks ‘Dora’ As ‘The Kitchen,’ ‘Art of Racing’ Crash," 12 Aug. 2019 Libra—like all money encoded in ones and zeros—has to be stored in what’s called a digital wallet in order to move around the Internet. Sue Halpern, The New Yorker, "Facebook’s Audacious Pitch for a Global Cryptocurrency," 30 July 2019 In a long-standing stalemate dominated by zeroes on the scoreboard and plenty of strikeouts, the Tigers lost, 3-2. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers' Matthew Boyd solid in loss vs. Phillies, 3-2 (15 inn.)," 24 July 2019 There were plenty of zeros put up while Porcello stood on the mound — something that he, the rotation and the Red Sox badly needed. Nick Kelly,, "Rick Porcello’s roll through Royals was sorely needed," 5 Aug. 2019

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

Birmingham’s Brasfield & Gorrie is zeroing in toward completion next fall of a Nashville luxury hotel project. William Thornton |, al, "Brasfield & Gorrie on track with Nashville luxury hotel project," 29 Aug. 2019 Activists are zeroing in on the bottle as next in line for banning, after plastic shopping bags. Laura Parker, National Geographic, "How the plastic bottle went from miracle container to hated garbage," 23 Aug. 2019 Similar questions are surfacing in the presidential race, where Julian Castro has zeroed in on the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in newsrooms. Ruben Navarrette Jr., The Mercury News, "Navarrette: America’s dialogue on race is now a vexing monologue," 27 July 2019 The widespread expectation at the draft combine in May was that the Grizzlies had zeroed in on Morant with this selection. Jeremy Woo,, "2019 NBA Mock Draft 9.0: Projecting All 60 Picks As Trade Talk Heats Up," 11 June 2019 Here's how Trump has zeroed in on Biden as a target. NBC News, "Trump, Biden battle for the spotlight in Iowa," 11 June 2019 Ryan was zeroing in on a worsening crisis felt worldwide. Robert Weisman,, "‘Disconnected from other folks,’ seniors grapple with a loneliness epidemic," 3 Aug. 2019 But if Winehouse was zeroed in on the sounds of 1963 or so, Bailey Rae brought to mind 1974. John Adamian,, "Corinne Bailey Rae, melding jazz, poetry and soul, to play Ridgefield," 26 July 2019 Watching film of practice is a frustrating endeavor because a coach naturally zeroes in on the flaws, and with so many young, inexperienced receivers on the team right now, there are plenty. Andy Benoit,, "24 Hours ... With Bengals Coach Zac Taylor," 25 July 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

21 Sep 2019

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)

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).


miscellaneous remnants or debris

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