How to Properly Use the Word “Zeitgeist” in a Sentence


how to properly use the word zeitgeist

The English language has borrowed multiple words from various other languages – after having made certain modifications to them or no changes to the original word at all. The ones that happen to be adopted in their original form are words that don’t sound too alien and invariably have a deep-seated meaning. “Zeitgeist” is one such word.

To properly use the word “zeitgeist” in a sentence, make sure the term is used to denote a specific time period or an era, changes in culture or people’s behavior, etc. And although “zeitgeist” is a German word, it has been used extensively enough in English to not be italicized or capitalized.

Continue reading to learn in more detail the meaning of the word and how it should be used in a sentence, its significance as a term, an exhaustive list of sentences with the word, etc.  

zeitgeist dices with spelling

Zeitgeist – Definition 

Zeitgeist is defined as the general intellectual, cultural, and moral climate of a period. It’s a German philosophy concept that denotes the spirit of an era or age. In other words, it’s the collective outlook or attitude of a culture or people at a certain point in time. Every era has its own spirit, climate, or nature that distinguishes it from other epochs. For instance, speakeasies and flappers contributed to the zeitgeist of the 1920s.

Another example is how Woodstock happened to symbolize the 1960s. Woodstock was a music festival held between the 15th and 18th of August, 1969 in Bethel, New York. Despite being held just once and only for a few days, Woodstock is considered the decade’s zeitgeist as it seemed symbolic of the period.

According to certain scholars, artists, and writers, an era’s zeitgeist cannot be understood until it’s done with. And many have opined that only philosophers or artists could explain it well. Though these expert thoughts are open to debate, “zeitgeist” as a word has certainly been a handy addendum to the English lexicon since 1835.

Not to mention, the word “zeitgeist” is a loanword or a German word that hasn’t been modified at all before being added to the English vocabulary.

Zeitgeist – Origin & History 

The German word “zeitgeist” literally translates to “time spirit”. “Zeit” means “time” and “geist” can be translated as “spirit”. 

The term was first used during the 1800s by German philosophers, including Johann Goethe and Georg Hegel. The word was first used in the English language sometime during the mid-1800s. Documented evidence states the term was used in a book in 1848 by Matthew Arnold, a literary critic who discussed Goethe through his work quite often.

According to Thomas Carlyle’s Great Man theory, history is viewed as acts of geniuses and heroes. Hegel, on the contrary, believed the so-called “great men”, particularly Napoleon, were embodiments of the weltgeist or world spirit. He believed art, by its nature, reflected the culture of time during which it was created.

Art and culture are inextricable, as an individual artist represents their time. As a result, the reflection of the culture becomes evident in their work. Moreover, Hegel believed classical art cannot be produced in modern society as the art represented an ethical and free culture. And that culture depended increasingly on the theory and philosophy of art, instead of the social construct’s reflection or the zeitgeist during which a particular artist lives.

zeitgeist lettering in chalk with clock

How to Properly Use “Zeitgeist” in a Sentence 

The word “zeitgeist” could be used in a particular sentence to discuss a current moment, a specific time period, or a broader era or period. The word “zeitgeist” could still be utilized in philosophical discussions. It, however, is more commonly used in discussions pertaining to cultural shifts and public attitudes during certain time periods of the past – which could be easily identified and analyzed with hindsight.

At times, the word is used to describe or attribute an entire era – for instance, the Victorian era. The zeitgeist of the Victorian era is usually described as more focused on industrial growth and progress. 

Zeitgeist is typically used to discuss certain works of art that were believed to skilfully represent the predominant outlook of a specific period, such as music, movies, and books. The term is also often used to describe decades. 

For instance, the zeitgeist of America during the 1980s is usually considered to have been preoccupied with wealth creation and consumption. At times, “zeitgeist” is used to discuss the changes that took place during a given decade or time.

In popular vocabulary, “zeitgeist” is flung around with little thought to what it truly means. Google and a special interest group have co-opted the term to certain special uses. For instance, “zeitgeist” is used to give names to movements launched by social reformers who intend to reallocate global resources under one global government.

Google also has a statistics function or search feature referred to as “zeitgeist”, which aggregates how often specific topics are looked for on their search engine over a period. In the context of the web, “zeitgeist” represents an image or idea iconic of a specific moment.

“Zeitgeist” is a noun. “Zeitgeisty” is an adjective. Some words that could be interchangeably used with “zeitgeist” include spirit, outlook, climate, and atmosphere. Also, the words that are used in combination with “zeitgeist” include:

  • Time
  • Era
  • Moment
  • Feeling
  • General
  • Trend
  • Culture

When using the word in sentences, keep these cardinal rules in mind. Certain writers use the word as a synonym for “fad” or “trend”. Other writers perhaps intend to concoct a phrase that’s reminiscent of the “aha moment” of Oprah, as in a “zeitgeist moment”.

Example Sentences with the Word “Zeitgeist” 

Here are examples of sentences with the word “zeitgeist” in them:

  • His songs captured 1960s America’s zeitgeist perfectly.
  • Just because a zeitgeist’s lowest common denominator has been dragged, it does not imply you own it.
  • I like certain films not just because they were well-made but also for the manner in which they completely defined the zeitgeist of their time.
  • Michael truly captured the zeitgeist through his books.  
  • This movie is a must-watch for any individual who would like to study the zeitgeist of that time.
  • Many tried the extremely challenging task of bringing him into the zeitgeist again, but only a few succeeded.
  • The zeitgeist of that decade is clearly captured in his compositions, particularly in the sonatas and symphonies.
  • Zeitgeist is a term that almost everybody believes in, but only a few understand.
  • The zeitgeist of the new era is leaving behind its mark on all.
  • Robert referred to Catherine as “a one-woman zeitgeist”.
  • Although in their own unique ways, the two leaders were responding to the zeitgeist linked with racial paranoia.
  • Both men are waiting for the social zeitgeist to offer them an opening.
  • Looking back at it now, it seems quite straightforward to detect the zeitgeist of the times bygone.
  • With a black prime minister at the helm, even some of the white leaders had to give in to the period’s zeitgeist.
  • Is it completely an issue of the zeitgeist, or are there some explanations to put forward?
  • Typically, my ideas about my very own voice have heralded the zeitgeist.
  • The show, on the contrary, has always reflected the zeitgeist.
  • I do not understand how some people get in tune with the fashion zeitgeist, or how they figure out what’s in vogue and what’s not.
  • I enthusiastically conversed with them for two hours, trying to deconstruct the zeitgeist and other things.
  • One of his several talents is being able to document the zeitgeist before others could even realize it was upon them.
  • I strongly believe that the Zeroes’ zeitgeist would be characterized by the desire for realism.
  • I believe the only way out is to change the zeitgeist along with the mindsets of the folks running these organizations.
  • The stories beautifully document the zeitgeist of it all, if not the true reality.
  • Isn’t that the entire point about the zeitgeist?
  • The hairstyles, clothes, and soundtrack reflect the collision of zeitgeists.
  • Longevity denotes if the video has been an aspect of the zeitgeist.
  • This major change in attitude happens when the zeitgeist is no more the same.
  • And he had a discerning eye for changing fashions and the zeitgeist.
  • What is jarring currently is the entire political zeitgeist.
  • It drove the zeitgeist of hype, speed, swagger, and novelty.
  • A portion of their success can be attributed to them understanding the zeitgeist of the Generation-X.
  • The zeitgeist denotes the massive upheavals in the country’s politics.
  • Their two primary interests seem to be zeitgeist and surveillance.

once upon a time typewriter

Conclusion 

“Zeitgeist” is more than just the prevailing view of the world at a particular time in history. It denotes a force that shapes events. Therefore, to discuss a “culinary zeitgeist”, a “fashion zeitgeist”, or a “culinary zeitgeist” when all the three pretty much denote a “trend” is akin to wasting a high-powered word.

The term “zeitgeist” should be understood or interpreted as a theory for a pattern within meaningful practices – which pertains to a certain historical time-period, connects various realms of social groups and social life, and traverses geographical contexts. By viewing the term analytically, it could be added to a fine-tuned vocabulary for cultural and social analysis.

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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