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[zoo] /zu/
noun, plural zoos.
Also called zoological garden. a parklike area in which live animals are kept in cages or large enclosures for public exhibition.
Informal. a place, activity, or group marked by chaos or unrestrained behavior.
Origin of zoo
First recorded in 1840-50; first two syllables of zoological garden taken as one syllable


a combining form meaning “living being,” “animal,” used in the formation of compound words:
zoometry; zooplankton.
Also, especially before a vowel, zo-.
combining form representing Greek zôion animal Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for zoo
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Or if you down't like the Tahr of London, you could go to the zoo.

    The Foolish Lovers St. John G. Ervine
  • I knew there was a big menagerie there, Cross's zoo, and that I should find some lions for sale.

    My Double Life Sarah Bernhardt
  • The zoo attendants might talk and entirely spoil their scheme.

    The Mind Master Arthur J. Burks
  • "I've been to the zoo lots of times," she said to the girl next to her.

    The Hunters William Morrison
  • They say there is a country where the elephants are wild,And never even heard of our zoo.

    Golden Moments Anonymous
British Dictionary definitions for zoo


noun (pl) zoos
a place where live animals are kept, studied, bred, and exhibited to the public Formal term zoological garden
Word Origin
C19: shortened from zoological gardens (originally applied to those in London)


combining form
indicating animals: zooplankton
Word Origin
from Greek zōion animal
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 zoo

c.1847, short for Zoological Gardens of the London Zoological Society, established 1828 in Regent's Park to house the society's collection of wild animals. From comb. form of Greek zoion "an animal," literally "a living being," from PIE root *gwei- "to live, life" (cf. Greek bios "life," Old English cwicu "living;" see bio-). Slang meaning "crowded and chaotic place" first recorded 1935.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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zoo in Medicine

zoo- or zo-
Animal; animal kingdom: zoonosis.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for zoo



A crowded and chaotic place: Opening Day is always a zoo/ The emergency room at Bellevue was usually a zoo (1935+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with zoo


see: it's a zoo
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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