zeroth

adjective
ze·​roth | \ ˈzē-(ˌ)rōth How to pronounce zeroth (audio) , ˈzir-(ˌ)ōth\

Definition of zeroth

: being numbered zero in a series also : zero sense 1 the zeroth power of a number

Zeroth and Ranking

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to use zeroth, but the word, which was coined by physicists 120 years ago, does often show up in scientific contexts. (It comes from zero, which is itself from Arabic ṣifr.) These days zeroth is frequently used to suggest a level of importance that is even higher than first. Renowned Soviet physicist Lev Landau used zeroth this way when he classified all the famous physicists according to the relative value of their contributions to science. He put Niels Bohr and Max Planck, for example, right up there in the first class, and lesser-rated physicists in the second through fifth classes. Where did he think Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton belonged? They were unmatched, he felt, so they went in his zeroth class.

First Known Use of zeroth

1850, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about zeroth

Listen to Our Podcast about zeroth

Statistics for zeroth

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for zeroth

The first known use of zeroth was in 1850

See more words from the same year

Comments on zeroth

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

WORD OF THE DAY

highly pertinent or appropriate

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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