\ ˈzü How to pronounce zoo (audio) \
plural zoos

Definition of zoo

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a facility with usually indoor and outdoor settings where living, typically wild animals are kept especially for public exhibition

called also zooological garden, zoological park

2 : a place, situation, or group marked by crowding, confusion, or unrestrained behavior The convention was a zoo.
variants: or before a vowel zo-

Definition of zoo- (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : animal : animal kingdom or kind zooid zoology
2 : motile zoospore

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Examples of zoo in a Sentence

Noun The sixth grade classroom was a zoo after recess. The supermarket was a real zoo on the night before the storm.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The zoo is often listed as among the best in the U.S. NBC News, "Beloved animal expert Jack Hanna has dementia, steps away from public life," 8 Apr. 2021 Hanna was the director of Ohio's Columbus Zoo and Aquarium from 1978 to 1992, and stayed on as a spokesperson for the zoo for many years, officially retiring at the end of 2020. Tyler Aquilina, EW.com, "Beloved wildlife expert Jack Hanna retiring from public life after dementia diagnosis," 7 Apr. 2021 The zoo is also working the DNR to use GPS monitors to track the turtles and protect their nests from raccoons and skunks. Greg Stanley, Star Tribune, "Roadside fences show promise for reducing Minnesota turtle fatalities," 6 Apr. 2021 The city only began purchasing the space for Circle Centre Mall in 1983, and the zoo wouldn’t open in its current location, at White River State Park, until 1988. Zach Osterman, The Indianapolis Star, "'One of the first steps': The story of Indy's transformative first Final Four," 2 Apr. 2021 Bakari, a 14-year-old lion at the Little Rock Zoo, has died, the zoo announced Thursday. Brianna Kwasnik, Arkansas Online, "Bakari, 14-year-old lion at Little Rock Zoo, dies," 3 Dec. 2020 The zoo also announced last week that the Adventure Safari Monorail and the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park will remain closed permanently. Shannon Sutlief, Dallas News, "Fun things to do this month in Dallas-Fort Worth — online, outdoors and more," 26 Nov. 2020 The zoo announced the development on social media last week. Francesca Giuliani-hoffman, CNN, "Drama at the zoo: Egg-napping male penguin couple steals the nest of a female penguin couple," 27 Oct. 2020 However, some social media users were greeted with an error message less than an hour after the zoo announced the news. Joel Shannon, USA TODAY, "Panda-monium: Giant panda at National Zoo gives birth to 'precious' cub," 21 Aug. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'zoo.' 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 zoo


1835, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for zoo


short for zoological garden

Combining form

borrowed from Greek zōo-, zōio-, combining form from zôion "animal," derivative from the base of zṓō, zṓein (Homeric), zô, zên (Attic) "to be alive, live," going back to Indo-European *gwi̯éh3-(u)- "live" (whence also Tocharian B śāyau "[I] live"), full grade of a stem attested elsewhere with zero grade as *gwih3-u-, whence Latin vīvō, vīvere "to live," Old Church Slavic živǫ, žiti, Old Prussian giwa "(s/he) lives," Latvian dzīvu "(I) live," Sanskrit jīvati "(s/he) lives," Avestan juuaiti

Note: See also bio-, quick entry 1.

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Statistics for zoo

Last Updated

10 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Zoo.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zoo. Accessed 21 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for zoo



English Language Learners Definition of zoo

: a place where many kinds of animals are kept so that people can see them
informal : a place, situation, or group that is crowded, loud, and uncontrolled


\ ˈzü How to pronounce zoo (audio) \
plural zoos

Kids Definition of zoo

: a place where living usually wild animals are kept for showing to the public

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Comments on zoo

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