View synonyms for zeitgeist


[ zahyt-gahyst, tsahyt- ]


  1. Sometimes Zeitgeist. the spirit of the time; the general trend of thought, feeling, or tastes characteristic of a particular period of time:

    It’s one of those iconic novels that represents the zeitgeist of the mid-1990s so perfectly that reading it provides the ideal dose of nostalgia.


/ ˈzaɪtˌɡaɪst /


  1. the spirit, attitude, or general outlook of a specific time or period, esp as it is reflected in literature, philosophy, etc
“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


  1. The general moral, intellectual, and cultural climate of an era; Zeitgeist is German for “time-spirit.” For example, the Zeitgeist of England in the Victorian period included a belief in industrial progress, and the Zeitgeist of the 1980s in the United States was a belief in the power of money and the many ways in which to spend it.

Discover More

Word History and Origins

Origin of zeitgeist1

First recorded in 1840–50; from German Zeitgeist, equivalent to Zeit “time, age, epoch” + Geist “spirit, mind, intellect”; tide 1( def ), ghost ( def )
Discover More

Word History and Origins

Origin of zeitgeist1

C20: from German, literally: time spirit; see tide 1, ghost
Discover More

Example Sentences

Podcasts are a growing market, and Spotify is betting that podcasters capturing the zeitgeist will help grow its subscriber base.

From Time

I think that’s what at least the broader industry marketing zeitgeist had been.

Given the zeitgeist, if any of these current bills fail, there are surely more to come.

Germany’s Angela Merkel is on her way out the door, and it’s anyone’s guess what comes next in the zeitgeist there.

From Time

If acting is 90 percent listening, here were two consummate pros, exquisitely attuned to what surrounded them, from their co-stars to their zeitgeist.

Doug [Ellin] is a genius at capturing the zeitgeist, and I think Entourage was very prophetic.

It was only a matter of time before meatier critical journalism began to pick up on the butthole zeitgeist.

Zeitgeist novels tend to fall in one of three categories, none of which have anything to do with the quality of the work itself.

A must read for anyone who wishes to understand the zeitgeist of those early days.

We now have to make it more salacious by adding in some sort of zeitgeist-y pop culture reference to social media and blogging.

The authors and thinkers themselves have been the first to feel the Zeitgeist.

Have the Zeitgeist and the Weltschmerz and the other things compared to which ‘le spleen’ was gay, done so much for us?

It is easy to overestimate the influence of any single man, and, contrariwise, to underestimate the power of the Zeitgeist.

And this active province of Béarn kept pace; it opened quickly to the new influences, was alive to the changing zeitgeist.

It is the Zeitgeist; when we have conquered, with their help, we shall teach them the real lesson of Christianity!


Discover More

More About Zeitgeist

What does zeitgeist mean?

The zeitgeist is the collective attitude or outlook of people or a culture at a specific point in time.

Zeitgeist can be used in discussion of the current moment, a narrow period of time  in the past, or a broader period or era. Literature and other media are sometimes said to express the Zeitgeist of the time they were created in or of a past period of time. The word is capitalized in its original language, German, and is sometimes capitalized in English (Zeitgeist).

Example: The zeitgeist at the time was a feeling that anything was possible.

Where does zeitgeist come from?

Zeitgeist is borrowed from German and literally translates to “time spirit” or “spirit of the times.” It comes from the German Zeit, meaning “time,” and Geist, meaning “spirit” or “ghost” (as seen in poltergeist, which means “a noisy ghost”). The term was originally used by German philosophers in the 1800s, including Georg Hegel and Johann Goethe. One of its first known uses in English came in an 1848 book by British literary critic Matthew Arnold, who often discussed Goethe in his work.

Zeitgeist may still be used in philosophical discussions, but it is perhaps more popularly used in observations about what people are or were feeling during a particular moment of time. It is especially used in discussions of public attitudes and cultural shifts during past periods, which are easier to identify and analyze with hindsight. Sometimes it is applied to an entire era, such as the Victorian era, whose zeitgeist is often described as being focused on industrial progress. It is often applied to decades. For example, the zeitgeist of 1980s America is often said to have been a preoccupation with wealth and consumption. Sometimes, zeitgeist is used in discussion of how it changed, as in The free loving zeitgeist of the early ’60s was soon replaced with anxieties driven by assassination and war.

Zeitgeist is often used to discuss particular works of art that are considered to have skillfully represented the prevailing outlook of a certain time, such as books, music, and movies, as in The film perfectly captures the zeitgeist during the tech boom of the early 2000s.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of zeitgeist?

What are some synonyms for zeitgeist?

What are some words that share a root or word element with zeitgeist

What are some words that often get used in discussing zeitgeist?

How is zeitgeist used in real life?

Zeitgeist is often used in observations about cultural trends and in statements about media that are said to have captured the overall feeling of an era.



Try using zeitgeist!

Is zeitgeist used correctly in the following sentence?

The musical zeitgeist of the 1980s was dominated by flashy performances and flamboyant fashions.