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Question 1 of 10

Origin of zero

1595–1605; < Italian < Medieval Latin zephirum < Arabic ṣifr cipher
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

British Dictionary definitions for zero in (1 of 2)

zero in

verb (adverb)

(often foll by on) to bring (a weapon) to bear (on a target), as while firing repeatedly
(intr foll by on) informal to bring one's attention to bear (on a problem, etc)
(intr foll by on) informal to converge (upon)the police zeroed in on the site of the crime

British Dictionary definitions for zero in (2 of 2)

See also zero in

Word Origin for zero

C17: from Italian, from Medieval Latin zephirum, from Arabic sifr empty, cipher
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

Medical definitions for zero in

[ zîrō ]

n. pl. ze•ros

The numerical symbol 0, indicating the absence of quantity or mass.
The temperature indicated by the numeral 0 on a thermometer.


To adjust an instrument or device to zero value.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Scientific definitions for zero in

[ zîrō ]

The numerical symbol 0, representing a number that when added to another number leaves the original number unchanged.

A Closer Look

Although the origin of zero is controversial, some historians believe that it was invented by the Babylonians in about 500 BCE. In the sixth century, it was discovered by the Hindus and Chinese, and 700 years later, it reached the Western world via the Arabs. Zero is the only integer (whole number) that is neither positive nor negative. In a sense, zero makes negative numbers possible, as a negative number added to its positive counterpart always equals zero. When zero is added to or subtracted from a number, it leaves the number at its original value. Zero is essential as a position holder in the system known as positional notation. In the number 203, for example, there are two hundreds, zero tens, and three ones. Zero indicates that the value of the tens place is zero. In the number 1024, zero indicates that the value of the hundreds place is zero. Scientists use the term absolute zero (0° Kelvin) to refer to the (unattainable) theoretically lowest possible temperature, at which the kinetic energy of molecules is zero.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.