Trend Watch

Senator Franken Calls Pence a 'Zealot'

A handy "Z" word for your next Scrabble game.

Zealot shoved its way to the top of our lookups on June 20th, 2017, after Senator Al Franken used the word to describe Vice President Mike Pence.

“Pence ran the transition and some of the very worst nominees...Franken told IBT. “He's ideological, I consider him a zealot, and I think that in terms of a lot of domestic policy certainly would be worse than Trump.”
—David Sirota, International Business Times (, 19 Jun. 2017

There are two meanings of zealot when the word is used as a noun; the older sense is a literal one, referring to a member of a Jewish sect in the 1st century AD, the members of who fiercely opposed the Roman domination of Palestine. When used in this sense the word is capitalized. This meaning began being used in English in the early 16th century; by the early 17th century a somewhat figurative sense emerged, in which zealot (written with a lower-case initial Z) was used to refer to a fanatical partisan of no fixed denomination.

A true zealot hath fireballes enough to fire the strongest Fort of the Enimy. Hee knowes the Kingdome of heauen suffers violence, and there is no taking of it, but by force. Nothing befalls him which he looked not for. Seneca's enemies could not faster learne to raile; then he, to contemne it. Will the Christian Zealot then bee to seeke, how to keepe off the boyish squibbs of scorne and disgrace?
—Cornelius Burges, The Fire of the Sanctuarie, 1625

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