We Asked: The Hardest Words You Have To Explain To Kids

Some words don't seem very complicated or unique ... until you have to explain them to your kid. This father gives us insight into a word he had to explain to his three-year-old, and it wasn't easy!

Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

Origin of zigzag

1705–15; <French; replacing earlier ziczac<French <German zickzack, gradational compound based on Zacketack1


zig·zag·ged·ness [zig-zag-id-nis], /ˈzɪgˌzæg ɪd nɪs/, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does zigzag mean?

A zigzag is a line of alternating, sharp up-and-down turns that form peaks and valleys kind of resembling the letter Z.

Getty Images. A pattern of zigzags.

As a noun, zigzag can also refer to a route or path that resembles this kind of pattern, as in The dragonfly moved through the air in a zigzag. 

Zigzag can also be used as a verb meaning to move back and forth while traveling forward in a way that resembles this pattern, as in The dragonfly zigzagged through the air. 

As a verb, zigzag is most commonly used in the context of physical movement, but it can be used in situations in which people keep doing different things, such as changing their minds. A much more common term for this is flip-flop.

It is also used as an adjective in phrases like zigzag pattern. In sewing, a zigzag stitch is a type of stitch that can be made by a sewing machine, such as to finish the edges of a garment. Some sewing machines use an attachment called a zigzagger to make such stitches.

Example: Some animals, like the hare, move in a zigzag pattern when escaping predators, making it harder for them to be caught.

Where does zigzag come from?

The first records of the word zigzag come from around the early 1700s. It comes from the French ziczac, from the German zickzack, which is based on the German Zacke, meaning “point” or “jagged projection.”

Zigzags have jagged points from the line sharply moving up and then back down. Sometimes, people use the words zig and zag by themselves to mean to move in one of the directions in a zigzag pattern. This is usually used in a somewhat humorous way, as in You zigged when you should have zagged! Both zig and zag came from zigzag (not the other way around).

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to zigzag?

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


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


How is zigzag used in real life?

Zigzag is commonly used as a noun, verb, and adjective. It’s typically used in the context of patterns and movements.


Try using zigzag!

Which of the following words best describes a zigzag?

A. even
B. straight
C. jagged
D. smooth

How to use zigzag in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for zigzag

Derived forms of zigzag

zigzaggedness, nounzigzagger, noun

Word Origin for zigzag

C18: from French, from German zickzack, from Zacke point, jagged projection; see tack 1
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