Word of the Day : December 12, 2011

zeitgeist

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noun, often capitalized TSYTE-gyste

Definition

: the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era

Did You Know?

Scholars have long maintained that each era has a unique spirit, a nature or climate that sets it apart from all other epochs. In German, such a spirit is known as "Zeitgeist," from the German words "Zeit," meaning "time," and "Geist," meaning "spirit" or "ghost." Some writers and artists assert that the true zeitgeist of an era cannot be known until it is over, and several have declared that only artists or philosophers can adequately explain it. We don’t know if that’s true, but we do know that "zeitgeist" has been a useful addition to the English language since at least 1835.


Examples

The movie does an excellent job of capturing the zeitgeist of the early Cold War era.

"If Broadway no longer seems behind the times or ahead of the times, it may be because there are no 'times' anymore, no prevailing Zeitgeist that sets the fashion, pace, and prevailing look." -- From an article by James Wolcott in Vanity Fair, July 2011



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