zeroth

adjective

ze·​roth ˈzir-(ˌ)ōth How to pronounce zeroth (audio)
ˈzē-(ˌ)rōth
: being numbered zero in a series
also : zero sense 1
the zeroth power of a number

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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.

Examples of zeroth in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The second law of thermodynamics, the first law of thermodynamics, the conservation of energy, the principles of statistical mechanics, the properties of radiation — all of that is 100% dependent on a set of principles that include the zeroth principle of physics, that information is conserved. Quanta Magazine, 11 Apr. 2024 For example, by putting the zeroth law to the side, physicists can study exotic structures like time crystals (which are crystalline patterns that repeat in time), the formation of snowflakes, and protein folding and the work of membranes in cells. Popular Mechanics, 17 Mar. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'zeroth.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1850, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of zeroth was in 1850

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Cite this Entry

“Zeroth.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zeroth. Accessed 21 Jun. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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