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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
    • 1611, King James Version of the Bible, Romans 10.2,[1]
      [] I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
    • 1687, John Dryden, The Hind and the Panther, London: Jacob Tonson, Part 3, p. 96,[2]
      Zeal, the blind conductor of the will
    • 1779, David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part 12, pp. 143-144,[3]
      [] 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, Jane Austen, Emma, London: John Murray, Volume 1, Chapter 14, p. 250,[4]
      [He] would begin admiring her drawings with so much zeal and so little knowledge as seemed terribly like a would-be lover,
    • 1962, Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Chapter 15, p. 248,[5]
      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, London: Robert Allot, Act V, Scene 5, p. 85,[6]
      [] like a malicious purblinde zeale as thou art!
    • 1642, Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, London: Andrew Crooke, p. 5,[7]
      [] 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]