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[zee-nith or, esp. British, zen-ith] /ˈzi nɪθ or, esp. British, ˈzɛn ɪθ/
the point on the celestial sphere vertically above a given position or observer.
Compare nadir.
a highest point or state; culmination.
Origin of zenith
1350-1400; Middle English cenith < Medieval Latin < Old Spanish zenit, scribal error for zemt < Arabic samt road, incorrectly read as senit by medieval scribes (compare Arabic samt ar-rās road above (over) one's head, the opposite of nadir)
Can be confused
nadir, zenith.
2. apex, summit.
1, 2. nadir. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for zenith
  • The blue zenith is the point in which romance and reality meet.
  • Only later did she realize that she had cut down what represented the zenith of that species.
  • He was near the zenith of his influence as the war was planned.
  • Nor does beauty reach its zenith under the age of thirty-five or forty.
  • She certainly wasn't at her moviemaking zenith at that time, but she radiated electricity.
  • H ere, surely, was the zenith of the property-owning democracy.
  • zenith drops out of computers to concentrate on the tube.
  • Today's suburbs display a colored zenith tapering downward to a brighter horizon.
  • The moon illusion is an interesting psychological phenomenon and maybe it has to do with people's perception of the zenith.
  • The brain's model of the sky is a shallow upturned bowl, with the zenith much closer than the parts of the sky near the horizon.
British Dictionary definitions for zenith


/ˈzɛnɪθ; US ˈziːnɪθ/
(astronomy) the point on the celestial sphere vertically above an observer
the highest point; peak; acme: the zenith of someone's achievements
Compare nadir
Derived Forms
zenithal, adjective
Word Origin
C17: from French cenith, from Medieval Latin, from Old Spanish zenit, based on Arabic samt, as in samt arrās path over one's head, from samt way, path + al the + rās head
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for zenith

late 14c., from Old French cenith (Modern French zénith), from Medieval Latin cenit, senit, bungled scribal transliterations of Arabic samt "road, path," abbreviation of samt ar-ras, literally "the way over the head." Letter -m- misread as -ni-.

The Medieval Latin word could as well be influenced by the rough agreement of the Arabic term with classical Latin semita "sidetrack, side path" (notion of "thing going off to the side"), from se- "apart" + *mi-ta-, suffixed zero-grade form of PIE root *mei- "to change" (see mutable).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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zenith in Science
The point on the celestial sphere that is directly above the observer (90 degrees above the celestial horizon). Compare nadir.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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