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From Middle English zele, from Old French zel, from Late Latin zēlus, from Ancient Greek ζῆλος (zêlos, zeal, jealousy), from Proto-Indo-European *yeh₂- (to search). Related to jealous.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ziːl/
  • (US) IPA(key): /zil/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -iːl


zeal (countable and uncountable, plural zeals)

  1. The fervour or tireless devotion for a person, cause, or ideal and determination in its furtherance; diligent enthusiasm; powerful interest.
    Synonyms: ardour, eagerness, enthusiasm, intensity, passion
    Antonym: apathy
    She extols the virtues of veganism with missionary zeal.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, Romans 10:2:
      I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
    • 1687, [John Dryden], “The Third Part”, in The Hind and the Panther. A Poem, in Three Parts, 2nd edition, London: [] Jacob Tonson [], →OCLC, page 96:
      Zeal, the blind conductor of the will
    • 1779, David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion[1], part 12, pages 143–144:
      [] the highest zeal in religion and the deepest hypocrisy, so far from being inconsistent, are often or commonly united in the same individual character.
    • 1815 December (indicated as 1816), [Jane Austen], chapter 14, in Emma: [], volumes (please specify |volume=I to III), London: [] [Charles Roworth and James Moyes] for John Murray, →OCLC, page 250:
      [He] would begin admiring her drawings with so much zeal and so little knowledge as seemed terribly like a would-be lover,
    • 1951 October, “Notes and News: The Harmonium at Troutbeck”, in Railway Magazine, page 709:
      It [Troutbeck] has religious isolation also, for it is several miles—and very strenuous miles in winter—from the parish church at Mungrisdale, and the introduction of the harmonium to the waiting room was due to the zeal of a vicar of many years ago who, in the absence of any other room in the village, obtained permission to use the premises for services, including Sunday School. Most of his successors have continued this self-sacrificing duty.
    • 1962, Rachel Carson, chapter 15, in Silent Spring[2], Boston: Houghton Mifflin, page 248:
      The stockman’s zeal for eliminating the coyote has resulted in plagues of field mice, which the coyote formerly controlled.
  2. (obsolete) A person who exhibits such fervour or tireless devotion.
    Synonym: zealot
    • 1614, Ben Jonson, Bartholomew Fair[3], London: Robert Allot, act v, scene 5, page 85:
      [] like a malicious purblinde zeale as thou art!
    • 1642, Thomas Browne, Religio Medici[4], London: Andrew Crooke, page 5:
      [] there are questionlesse both in Greeke, Roman and Africa Churches, solemnities, and ceremonies, whereof the wiser zeales doe make a Christian use, and stand condemned by us;
  3. The collective noun for a group of zebras.
    Synonyms: dazzle, herd
    • 2012, Alex Kuskowski, Zeal of Zebras: Animal Groups on an African Safari, →ISBN, page 8:
      A zeal of zebras confuses predators. Each zebra has a different set of stripes.

Related terms[edit]