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

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

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

What does the word zealous mean?

According to Dictionary and Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary, the word zealous (pronounced ˈzɛləs) is an adjective that describes someone or something that is ardently active or devotes to something. This is often used to refer to people who are religious zealots, who are people who are very passionate about their religion. People who travel the world trying to convert people to their religion could be described as zealous missionaries. Zealous can either have a positive or a negative connotation depending on the context. A religious zealot may be called such as an insult, whereas a dog might be a zealot for fetch, which is a positive thing. Overall, the word zealous can describe any person or thing who is very excited about and devoted to something. 

Many different languages also use words that mean zealous. You may notice that some of these words look or sound similarly to the word zealous. These cognates are formed when words come from a similar origin. THis list of translations for the word zealous is provided by Word Sense.

  • Norwegian: engasjert‎, ivrig‎, nidkjær‎, flittig‎
  • French: zélé‎
  • Welsh: selog‎
  • Spanish: celoso‎, ferviente‎, entusiasta
  • Estonian: agar‎, innukas‎
  • Sorani: په‌روه‌ر‎
  • Czech: horlivý‎
  • Ido: zelanta‎, zeloza‎
  • Dutch: ijverig‎, vlijtig‎
  • Maori: ngākaunui‎, whiwhita‎, whitawhita‎, ngangahau‎
  • Lithuanian: pavydus‎
  • Bulgarian: ревностен‎, усърден‎
  • Hungarian: buzgó‎
  • Italian: zelante‎
  • Cherokee: ᎤᏚᎩᎠᏓᏕᎵᏎᏗ‎
  • Chinese – Mandarin: 熱心‎, 热心‎ (rèxīn)
  • Russian: рья́ный‎, усе́рдный‎, ре́вностный‎
  • Scottish Gaelic: dian‎, dealasach‎
  • Armenian: եռանդուն‎, փութաջան‎
  • Japanese: 熱心‎
  • Latin: studiōsus‎, ardēns‎, ācer‎
  • Portuguese: zeloso‎
  • German: eifrig‎, begeistert‎
  • Cornish: diwysyk‎
  • Galician: celoso‎
  • Interlingua: zelose‎
  • Scots: guidwillt‎
  • Swedish: ivrig‎, hänförd‎, entusiastisk‎, nitisk‎, hängiven‎
  • Finnish: intohimoinen‎
  • Arabic: مُتَحَمِّس‎, حَمَاسِيّ‎
  • Polish: zagorzały‎, żarliwy‎, zapamiętały‎
  • Tagalog: salurapa‎

What is the origin of the word zealous?

According to Etymonline, the word zealous has been used as an adjective to eman full of zeal since the 1520s. This word comes from the Medieval Latin zelosus which meant full of zeal. This is also the origin of the Spanish word celoso and the Italian word zeloso. This comes from zelus. Etymonline states that the Latin zelus 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 zealous has been used to mean fervent or inspired since the late 14th century. This is similar to the word jealous, but the word jealous came through French. Related words to the word zealous include zealously, zealousness, seal, and overzealous.

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word zealous?

There are many different words that a person can use in place of the word zealous. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same or similar definitions as another word or phrase. Synonyms are very useful to know if you are looking to grow your vocabulary or avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word zealous is provided by Thesaurus. 

  • fanatic
  • fired
  • spirited
  • antsy
  • fireball
  • possessed
  • eager
  • coming on strong
  • dedicated
  • fanatical
  • afire
  • gung-ho
  • passionate
  • ardent
  • obsessed
  • fervid
  • burning
  • hot
  • avid
  • fervent
  • rabid
  • self-starting
  • earnest
  • itchy
  • enthusiastic
  • ripe
  • wild-eyed
  • frenetic
  • keen
  • impassioned
  • devoted
  • pushy

There are also many different words that mean the opposite of the word zealous. These are known as antonyms. Antonyms are also very useful to know if you are working on your vocabulary or want to grow your knowledge of the English language. This list of antonyms for the word zealous is also provided by Thesaurus.

  • what the hell
  • stoic
  • cool
  • unmoved
  • unconcerned
  • disinterested
  • cold
  • stolid
  • wimpy
  • blah
  • untouched
  • languid
  • couldn’t care less
  • draggy
  • apathetic
  • emotionless
  • callous
  • don’t give a damn
  • laid-back
  • indifferent
  • uncaring
  • uninterested
  • could care less
  • insensible
  • passive
  • unresponsive
  • moony
  • unemotional
  • unfeeling
  • flat
  • impassive

How can the word zealous be used in a sentence?

The word zealous is a very versatile word that can be used to describe a variety of people and things. In this first example, the word zealous will be used to describe a person.  Trinity is obsessed with the latest boy band, and she is talking to her dad about them.

Trinity: So the group met at school, and they started rehearsing together after school and then they performed at the mall and this talent scout saw them and–

Dad: Honey, breathe. I’m so excited to hear all about this new band, but take it down a notch. You’re becoming a little overzealous.

Trinity: I am the perfect amount of zealous! 

Here, Trinity’s dad tells her she is being too enthusiastic about the band to the point of obsession. Trinity retorts by saying that she has the perfect level of enthusiasm. In this next example, Trinity has taken her dog to the park to play. Her dog jumps on a person.

Trinity: Toto, stop! I’m so sorry!

Man: No worries at all.

Trinity: Once he sees the ball he sort of gets tunnel vision and can’t see anything in front of him. He’s a real zealot for fetch.

In this example, Trinity describes her dog as a zealot for fetch because he is very  enthusiastic and devoted to the game, even to the point of knocking over a man because he was so focused on the ball.

Overall, the word zealous is an adjective that is used to describe a person or thing that is impassioned about a specific thing. This is usually a framework of ideas, but can be used to describe a person’s passionate devotion to any number of things. This word is of Latin origin.