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See also: zénith



Diagram showing the relationship between the zenith, the nadir, and different types of horizon. Note that the zenith is opposite the nadir.

From Middle English cenyth, from Medieval Latin cenit, from Arabic سَمْت(samt, direction, path), from the fuller form سَمْت اَلرَّأْس(samt ar-raʔs, direction of the head). The -ni- for -m- is sometimes thought to be due to a misreading of the three strokes, which is plausible, though it could be a mere phonetic approximation.



zenith (plural zeniths)

  1. (astronomy) The point in the sky vertically above a given position or observer; the point in the celestial sphere opposite the nadir.
    Antonyms: nadir, perigee
    • 1638, Sir Thomas Herbert, Some years travels into divers parts of Asia and Afrique:
      The 12 day wee had the wind high and large ſo that in two dayes ſaile we made the Sunne our Zenith or verticall point []
    • 1671–1693: Rev. Thomas Jolly, private notebook; printed in: 1895, Henry Fishwick (editor), The Note Book of the Rev. Thomas Jolly: A.D. 1671–1693. Extracts from the Church Books of Altham and Wymondhouses, 1649–1725. And an Account of the Jolly Family of Standish, Gorton, and Altham, page 44
      In this 10th m. appeared that prodigious Comett the tayl whereof was like the blade of a double edged sword, and reached almost from the horizon to the zenith.
    • 1938, Xavier Herbert, chapter XI, in Capricornia[1], New York: D. Appleton-Century, published 1943, page 180:
      In the east a pillar of cloud reared from horizon to zenith, with a kind of arm outstretched like a threatening colossus.
  2. (astronomy) The highest point in the sky reached by a celestial body.
    • 1719 May 6 (Gregorian calendar), [Daniel Defoe], The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, [], 3rd edition, London: [] W[illiam] Taylor [], published 1719, →OCLC:
      [] in the middle of the day, when the sun was in the zenith, the violence of the heat was too great to stir out []
    • 1920, Peter B. Kyne, chapter II, in The Understanding Heart:
      As far to the west as Monica could see, her world was a sea of fog, [] . Above it arched a cerulean sky; as the sun climbed to the zenith, [] , the fog gradually took on a bluish tinge.
  3. (by extension) Highest point or state; peak.
    Winning the continental championship was the zenith of my career.
    Synonyms: acme, apogee, culmination, pinnacle


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