The Meaning of Zeal: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of zeal? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word zeal, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word zeal mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and Vocabulary, the word zeal (pronounced ziːl) is a noun that refers to some eagerness or ardent pursuit or something. This person has an eager desire to complete an endeavor. This feeling of strong eagerness causes a prompt willingness and enthusiastic devotion to whatever the goal or topic is that they have absolute zeal for. This word is often used in a religious sense. You will often hear people being described as religious zealots, which means they have a kind of religious zeal for their God or church. However, the word zeal can be used to refer to a passion for much more than just a religion. Someone can have zeal for a sports team, band, political cause, or any other number of things! If you are passionate about something, you have zeal for it. Try using this word of the day or other new words in a sentence today!

Many different languages aso contain words that mean zeal. All of these words also describe an intense enthusiasm or revolutionary ardor for something. You may notice that some of these words look and sound similar to the word zeal. These are called cognates. A cognate, which is a word that looks and sounds similar while retaining the same meaning across languages, are often formed when two words have the same root or language of origin such as Latin or Greek. This list of translations for the word zeal is provided by Word Sense.

  • French: zèle‎ (masc.), assiduité‎ (fem.)
  • Cornish: diwysykter‎ (masc.)
  • Hungarian: buzgóság‎
  • Japanese: 熱情‎ (netsujō)
  • Cherokee: ᎤᏚᎩᎬᏗ‎
  • Spanish: ahínco‎ (masc.), fervor‎ (masc.), celo‎ (masc.), entusiasmo‎ (masc.)
  • Polish: zapał‎ (m-in)
  • German: Eifer‎ (masc.), Begeisterung‎ (fem.)
  • Romanian: zel‎ (neut.), ardoare‎ (fem.), râvnă‎ (fem.), sârguință‎ (fem.)
  • Swedish: iver‎, nit‎ (common), nitälskan‎ (common)
  • Catalan: zel‎ (masc.)
  • Welsh: sêl‎ (fem.), selogrwydd‎ (masc.)
  • Irish: díograis‎ (fem.)
  • Russian: рве́ние‎ (neut.), усе́рдие‎ (neut.)
  • Czech: horlivost‎ (fem.)
  • Esperanto: fervoro‎
  • Arabic: حماس‎
  • Portuguese: zelo‎ (masc.)
  • Interlingua: zelo‎
  • Scottish Gaelic: eud‎ (masc.)
  • Persian: غیرت‎ (γeyrat), تعصب‎ (ta’asob)
  • Finnish: into‎, intohimo‎, kiihko‎
  • Mandarin: 熱心‎, 热心‎ (rèxīn), 熱情‎, 热情‎ (rèqíng), 激情‎ (jīqíng), 熱忱‎, 热忱‎ (rèchén)
  • Ido: zelo‎
  • Turkish: hırs‎, şevk‎, heves‎
  • Italian: zelo‎ (masc.)
  • Norwegian: engasjement‎ (neut.), iver‎ (masc.)
  • Dutch: ijver‎ (masc.), geestdrift‎ (masc.)

How can the word zeal be used in a sentence?

The word zeal can be used in a variety of different contexts to refer to a passion or enthusiasm. It is commonly used in reference to someone who has passion for their religion, but can also be used in numerous other contexts. In this first example, it will be used to describe someone religious. Michael is discussing his missionary trip to South America. 

Friend: Was it difficult to navigate around the new country and language?

Michael: It was. I barely knew enough Spanish to get through the airport, and I got food poisoning my first night there. I got lost a million times, but my zeal for my religion – for my God – is what kept me going. 

Friend: That’s amazing! I want to see some pictures!

Here, Michael uses the word zeal to describe his passion for his religion that kept him going on his trip even when times were tough, considered missionary zeal or excessive fervor for his religious movement. Next, Michael has a young son who wants to redecorate his room. His youngest boy has a powerful interest and diligent enthusiasm for a certain superhero, and great plans for his future room. 

Michael: What color do you want your room to be?

Son: Spiderman. 

Michael: Okay, Spiderman walls. What are you going to decorate it with?

Son: Spiderman bed, Spiderman lamp, Spiderman everything!

Michael: Such zeal you’ve got for Spiderman! Great energy!

What is the origin of the word zeal?

According to Etymonline, the word zeal has been used since the late 14th century. The word zeal comes from the Old French zel, which is spelled zéle in Modern French. This could come directly from the Late Latin ​zēlus meaning zeal. This comes from the Greek zēlos meaning ardor or emulation. This comes from the Proto-Indo-European root ya meaning to seek or desire. The word zeal has been used since the mid-15th century to eman devotion. Related words include the adjective zealous, and the nouns zealot and zealousness. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word zeal?

There are a plethora of different words that someone can use in place of the word zeal. These words which have the same definition as the word zeal are called synonyms. Synonyms are a great way to expand your vocabulary and an easy way to avoid repeating yourself in speech or written work. This list of synonyms for the word zeal is provided by Thesaurus.

  • vehemence
  • relish
  • diligence
  • avidity
  • bustle
  • fever
  • readiness
  • intensity
  • orgasm
  • conviction
  • mirth
  • emotion
  • ardor
  • joyfulness
  • fieriness
  • warmth
  • spirit
  • exhilaration
  • flame
  • fire
  • engagedness
  • ardour
  • push
  • determination
  • heat
  • ardency
  • gaiety
  • earnestness
  • keenness
  • sincerity
  • mania
  • élan
  • fanaticism
  • urgency
  • yen
  • verve
  • dispatch
  • vim
  • eagerness
  • ecstasy
  • stick-to-itiveness
  • snap
  • devotion
  • dash
  • zest
  • joy
  • frenzy
  • fierceness
  • impetuosity
  • enterprise
  • flare
  • perseverance
  • intentness
  • go
  • energy
  • fervor
  • hustle
  • interest
  • initiative
  • inclination
  • fury
  • passion
  • rapture
  • gusto
  • drive
  • feeling
  • hilarity
  • zealousness
  • vivacity
  • activity
  • transport
  • alacrity
  • what-it-takes
  • hobby
  • fad
  • glow
  • oomph
  • red heat
  • pep
  • nerve
  • life
  • craze
  • enthusiasm

There are also many different words that mean the opposite of the word zeal. These are called antonyms. Learning antonyms for different words is also a great way to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word zeal is also provided by Thesaurus.  

  • lack of interest
  • disinterest
  • lethargy
  • disregard
  • stoicism
  • lack
  • callousness
  • cold shoulder
  • neutrality
  • insouciance
  • aloofness
  • apathy
  • immunity
  • dispassion
  • disdain
  • insensibility
  • disinterestedness
  • noninterference
  • objectivity
  • impassiveness
  • inattention
  • passiveness
  • unconcern
  • insensitivity
  • detachment
  • cold-bloodedness
  • equity
  • unmindfulness
  • carelessness
  • impartiality
  • isolationism
  • indifference
  • impassivity
  • alienation
  • coolness
  • inertia
  • heedlessness
  • unresponsiveness
  • negligence
  • torpor
  • laziness
  • emotionlessness
  • coldness
  • listlessness
  • lassitude
  • nonchalance
  • dullness
  • passivity

Overall, the word zeal is a noun that refers to an eagerness or passion about something. This person has an enthusiastic diligence, passionate ardor, active interest, and a tireless devotion to their passion, which is not dependent on its popularity. Such fervour is often used to refer to someone who is religious, such as a missionary, but could be used in any other number of contexts to refer to a passion or enthusiasm for something.