[ zey-tuh, zee- ]
/ ˈzeɪ tə, ˈzi- /
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the sixth letter of the Greek alphabet (Z, ζ).
the consonant sound represented by this letter.
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Origin of zeta

First recorded in 1820–30, zeta is from the Greek word zêta
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What else does zeta mean?

Zeta is a letter of the Greek alphabet. As a letter, zeta is popularly encountered in the names of fraternities and sororities. Zeta is also popularly associated with a famous alien abduction story.

In men’s rights lingo, zeta refers to a man who refuses to have their masculinity defined by or in terms of women.

What are some other words related to zeta?


Where does zeta come from?

Zeta is the sixth letter of the Greek alphabet (uppercase Ζ, lowercase ζ). It is closely related to our letter Z, inherited from the Latin alphabet.

While zeta sees many applications, one of the more unusual ones is thanks to the couple Barney and Betty Hill. One night in 1961, the Hills said they were minding their own business when they saw a bright UFO. They later recounted being abducted by aliens, who Betty described as humanoid, a large head, small gray body, and oversized and slanted black eyes—now an archetype for extraterrestrial beings.

The Hills called the aliens the Zeta Reticulans after their supposed homeland, the Zeta Reticuli star system. The sensational story helped set the standard for alien abduction legends—and helped establish the association of zeta with aliens in popular culture.

Another notable use of zeta was created by men’s rights advocate Paul Elam in his 2010 article, The Plague of Modern Masculinity. Created as an answer to the perceived toxicity of modern feminism, Elam presented the zeta male as one who rejects modes of masculinity that are grounded in how women value them. Instead, the zeta takes matters into their own hands based on how they value themselves. This thinking closely echoes ideas in the Men Going Their Own Way movement.

Elam used zeta in reference to the constellation Zeta Persei, in part because of its connection to Perseus, the slayer of the gorgon Medusa, which Elam sees as a metaphor for the modern woman. Zeta would also appear to riff on the alpha, beta, and omega social hierarchies.

How is zeta used in real life?

As a letter, zeta appears in the names of several major fraternities and sororities, including Zeta Tau Alpha.

Zeta remains associated with aliens. In apparent reference to aliens, the popular 1997 video game Fallout features an alien mother ship called Zeta.

Then there are the zeta males. You can find uses of the phrase in masculinist spaces , including on men’s rights sites like Paul Elam’s A Voice for Men or various online forums. Many of these men, who blame women for their problems, fall into the same controversial category as so-called red-pillers or incels.

More examples of zeta:

“UFOmania also claims one race involved comes from the Zeta Reticuli star system, which has long been associated with alien mythology after the abduction of Betty and Barney Hill in 1961.”
—Paul Harper, Daily Star, May 2018

“A zeta male is used for men who have rejected the traditional expectations associated with being a man- a provider, defender, and protector. He rejects stereotypes and doesn’t conform to traditional beliefs. He marches to the beat of his own drum and refuses to be seduced and shamed by anyone.”

—Ayomide O. Tayo, Pulse, February 2017

How to use zeta in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for zeta (1 of 3)

/ (ˈziːtə) /

the sixth letter in the Greek alphabet (Ζ, ζ), a consonant, transliterated as z

Word Origin for zeta

from Greek, of Semitic origin; compare Hebrew sādhē

British Dictionary definitions for zeta (2 of 3)

/ (ˈziːtə) /

(foll by the genitive case of a specified constellation) the sixth brightest star in a constellationZeta Tauri

British Dictionary definitions for zeta (3 of 3)

/ (ˈziːtə) /

a torus-shaped apparatus used for research in the 1950s and early 1960s on controlled thermonuclear reactions and plasma physics

Word Origin for ZETA

C20: from z (ero-) e (nergy) t (hermonuclear) a (pparatus)
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 zeta

[ zātə, zē- ]

The sixth letter of the Greek alphabet.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.