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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.
    She extols the virtues of veganism with missionary zeal.
    Synonyms: ardour, eagerness, enthusiasm, intensity, passion
    Antonym: apathy
  2. (obsolete) A person who exhibits such fervour or tireless devotion.
    Synonym: zealot
    • 1614, Ben Jonson, Bartholomew Fair[3], London: Robert Allot, 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]