ze·​nith ˈzē-nəth How to pronounce zenith (audio)
 Canadian also and British usually  ˈze-nəth,
: the point of the celestial sphere that is directly opposite the nadir and vertically above the observer see azimuth illustration
: the highest point reached in the heavens by a celestial body
: culminating point : acme
at the zenith of his powersJohn Buchan

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Reaching the Zenith

When you reach the zenith, you're at the top, the pinnacle, the summit, the peak. Zenith developed from an Arabic phrase meaning "the way over one's head," and then traveled through Old Spanish, Medieval Latin, and Middle French before arriving in English. As long ago as the 1300s, English speakers used zenith to name the highest point in the celestial heavens, directly overhead. By the 1600s, zenith was being used for other high points as well. The celestial term is often contrasted with nadir, which refers to the point that is vertically downward from the observer (imagine a line going through the Earth from the observer's feet and out the other side into the sky). Figuratively, nadir simply means "the lowest point."

Examples of zenith in a Sentence

at the zenith of her career as a dancer
Recent Examples on the Web The near-life-size portrait of his five well-dressed, playful children and their pooch is the zenith of 1870s cult-of-children painting. Brian T. Allen, National Review, 10 Feb. 2024 Sofia Richie Grainge’s ascent to modern-day It-girl reached its zenith last April when her ethereal wedding to record executive Elliot Grainge at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc became a viral sensation. Alex Kessler, Vogue, 31 Jan. 2024 If Hip-Hop’s 50th anniversary marks the nadir of rap’s left-leaning activism then the Black August Project was its zenith. Timmhotep Aku, Rolling Stone, 23 Jan. 2024 The film would ultimately top $1 billion and stood as part of a zenith for comic book movies, in a year that included Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 Dec. 2023 Today, only 10 percent of workers are unionized, and the unionization rate has continued its decline from its zenith in the 1950s no matter which party has been in power. Dominic Pino, National Review, 25 Jan. 2024 The Summer of the Great Black-and-Gold Second Guessing hit its zenith Sunday when Tyler Bertuzzi signed on with the Maple Leafs with a one-year deal that will pay the ex-Bruins winger $5.5 million. Kevin Paul Dupont, BostonGlobe.com, 3 July 2023 More time passed, and virtually every problem on a vehicle would trigger some kind of sensor, which would then turn on some kind of error code, and the ubiquity of onboard diagnostics reached its zenith. Robin Warner, Ars Technica, 4 Dec. 2023 And then there was Justice League, which was supposed to be a zenith of Snyder’s directorial career but ended up being the nadir. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, 29 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English cenyth, senyth, from Middle French cenit, from Medieval Latin, from Old Spanish zenit, modification of Arabic samt (al-ra's) way (over one's head)

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of zenith was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near zenith

Cite this Entry

“Zenith.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zenith. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


ze·​nith ˈzē-nəth How to pronounce zenith (audio)
: the point in the heavens directly overhead
: the highest point

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