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  • The defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.

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Example Sentences

“She wanted to embrace the zeitgeist of the 1980s for her birthday party.”

“The bestselling book captured the zeitgeist of the college experience.”

“Certain fashions and trends of a particular zeitgeist will come back around eventually.”

Word Origin

German, mid-19th century

Why this word?

If we don’t have a word for something in English, chances are good there’s a word for it in German. Case in point: “zeitgeist,” which refers to a particular mood or the characteristics of a certain era. In German, “zeit” means “time,” and “geist” is “spirit.” Flapper dresses, for example, were part of the 1920s zeitgeist. Hippie bell bottoms bring to mind the 1960s, and hoop skirts place a woman in the mid-19th century. Articles of clothing can quickly identify a period of time, but other things, such as music, political ideas, and cultural philosophies, also define the zeitgeist of a generation.

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