[ zee-nith or, esp. British, zen-ith ]
/ ˈzi nɪθ or, esp. British, ˈzɛn ɪθ /


the point on the celestial sphere vertically above a given position or observer.Compare nadir.
a highest point or state; culmination.

Nearby words

  1. zeng guofan,
  2. zenger,
  3. zenger, john peter,
  4. zenia,
  5. zenist,
  6. zenith distance,
  7. zenith telescope,
  8. zenith tube,
  9. zenithal,
  10. zenithal equidistant projection

Origin of zenith

1350–1400; Middle English cenith < Medieval Latin < Old Spanish zenit, scribal error for zemt < Arabic samt road, incorrectly read as senit by medieval scribes (compare Arabic samt ar-rās road above (over) one's head, the opposite of nadir)

Can be confusednadir zenith

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for zenith

British Dictionary definitions for zenith


/ (ˈzɛnɪθ, US ˈziːnɪθ) /


astronomy the point on the celestial sphere vertically above an observer
the highest point; peak; acmethe zenith of someone's achievements
Compare nadir

Derived Formszenithal, adjective

Word Origin for zenith

C17: from French cenith, from Medieval Latin, from Old Spanish zenit, based on Arabic samt, as in samt arrās path over one's head, from samt way, path + al the + rās head

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

Word Origin and History for zenith



late 14c., from Old French cenith (Modern French zénith), from Medieval Latin cenit, senit, bungled scribal transliterations of Arabic samt "road, path," abbreviation of samt ar-ras, literally "the way over the head." Letter -m- misread as -ni-.

The Medieval Latin word could as well be influenced by the rough agreement of the Arabic term with classical Latin semita "sidetrack, side path" (notion of "thing going off to the side"), from se- "apart" + *mi-ta-, suffixed zero-grade form of PIE root *mei- "to change" (see mutable).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for zenith


[ zēnĭth ]

The point on the celestial sphere that is directly above the observer (90 degrees above the celestial horizon). Compare nadir.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.