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zenith

[zee-nith or, esp. British, zen-ith] /ˈzi nɪθ or, esp. British, ˈzɛn ɪθ/
noun
1.
the point on the celestial sphere vertically above a given position or observer.
Compare nadir.
2.
a highest point or state; culmination.
Origin
1350-1400
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.
Synonyms
2. apex, summit.
Antonyms
1, 2. nadir.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for zeniths

zenith

/ˈzɛnɪθ; US ˈziːnɪθ/
noun
1.
(astronomy) the point on the celestial sphere vertically above an observer
2.
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 zeniths

zenith

n.

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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zeniths in Science
zenith
  (zē'nĭth)   
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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Encyclopedia Article for zeniths

zenith

point on the celestial sphere directly above an observer on the Earth. The point 180 opposite the zenith, directly underfoot, is the nadir. Astronomical zenith is defined by gravity; i.e., by sighting up a plumb line. If the line were not deflected by such local irregularities in the Earth's mass as mountains, it would point to the geographic zenith. Because the Earth rotates and is not a perfect sphere, the geocentric zenith is slightly different from the geographic zenith except at the Equator and the poles. Geocentric zenith is the intersection with the celestial sphere of a straight line drawn through the observer's position from the geometric centre of the Earth

Learn more about zenith with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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