Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
April 3rd, 2016
Episode 493 of 765 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for April 3, 2016 is: zenith \ZEE-nith\ noun 1 : the point of the celestial sphere that is directly opposite the nadir and vertically above the observer 2 : the highest point reached in the heavens by a celestial body 3 : culminating point : acme Examples: "'As a film actor,' muses [Helen] Mirren, 'I didn't really reach my zenith until comparatively recently.' That zenith was probably the 2006 release of The Queen, with Mirren portraying Queen Elizabeth's response to the death of Princess Diana…." — Neala Johnson, The Courier Mail (Australia), 19 July 2014 "Dr. Seuss rocks. I thought reading the collected works of Shakespeare was the zenith of myintellectual development. Ha. As every parent knows, nothing compares to the collected works of Theodor Geisel." — Rob Jenkins, Gwinnett Daily Post (Lawrenceville, Georgia), 14 June 2014 Did you know? When you reach the zenith, you're at the top, the pinnacle, the summit, the peak. Zenith developed from Arabic terms meaning "the way over one's head," and then traveled through Old Spanish, Medieval Latin, and Middle French before arriving in English. As long ago as the 1300s, English speakers used zenith to name the highest point in the celestial heavens, directly overhead. By the 1600s, zenith was being used for other high points as well. The celestial term is often contrasted with nadir, or the point that is vertically downward from the observer (imagine a line going through the earth from the observer's feet and out the other side into the sky). Figuratively, nadir simply means "the lowest point."