Definition of zero in US English:


cardinal number

  • 1No quantity or number; naught; the figure 0.

    ‘figures from zero to nine’
    ‘you've left off a zero—it should be five hundred million’
    • ‘It was quite a feat to hold the Cardinals to zero runs in 27 innings.’
    • ‘He may not understand how to add or subtract zero as a quantity, she added.’
    • ‘The false negative rate was 38.1% and the false positive rate was zero.’
    • ‘The Federal Reserve can cut short-term interest rates down to zero, but that won't make consumers feel safer about flying.’
    • ‘For part-time temporary staff, the figure was zero.’
    • ‘In these places areal strain rates are nearly zero or negative.’
    • ‘The vote has been re-opened with the figures reset to zero.’
    • ‘Contemporaries in the media gave their own ballpark figures, each adding a zero to the figure I already had.’
    • ‘Press one number, zero through nine, on each of ten squares and arrange the letters on each square as shown in the photo.’
    • ‘Unless your doctor says you're low in iron, look for a brand with zero to nine milligrams.’
    • ‘Expect a top speed of over 120 mph, and to travel from zero to 60 mph in just over nine seconds.’
    • ‘The second clock was numbered zero through nine, and the smallest one, the one in the middle was the same, zero through nine.’
    • ‘Those who wrote these regulations just forgot to put a zero behind the figures.’
    • ‘Even with market interest rates at zero, few in Japan want to borrow or invest.’
    • ‘Generally speaking, the closer the figure is to zero, the more closely the fund replicates the index.’
    • ‘It's like when somebody years ago figured out that zero was a number.’
    • ‘Overall, the total number of criterion satisfied averaged 4.18 but ranged from zero to nine.’
    • ‘He is going to magnify his efforts without knowing that any quantity multiplied by zero is still zero.’
    • ‘By this time, our expectations have gone so negative, that even a zero seems positive.’
    • ‘Participants select six numbers between zero and nine to take part in the lottery, which runs from Monday to Friday.’
    nought, nothing, cipher, nil, 0
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A point on a scale or instrument from which a positive or negative quantity is reckoned.
      ‘the gauge dropped to zero’
      as modifier ‘a zero rate of interest’
      • ‘U.S. News has our diversity index at 0.27 on a scale of zero to 1.0.’
      • ‘Since this was a theatrical feature, the chapters will be rated on a scale of zero to four stars.’
    2. 1.2 The temperature corresponding to 0° on the Celsius scale (32° Fahrenheit), marking the freezing point of water.
      ‘the temperature was below zero’
      • ‘He had died after spending a night outside and being exposed to the 8 degrees below zero temperatures.’
      • ‘The temperature is well below zero, puddles of water are frozen, and a white frost has formed over the graffiti painted on the ancient bus parked by the roadside.’
      • ‘The day dawned clear and freezing cold with temperatures well below zero, with the prospect of snow predicted by the Met office.’
      • ‘Since father-of-two Richard started the project at the beginning of the year, he has been working through the rain and temperatures dipping below zero.’
      • ‘Anxious villagers claim drivers diced with death when a flood-hit road turned into an ‘ice rink’ as temperatures fell below zero.’
      • ‘They have water that they spray on you in near zero temperatures, that leaves you burning and itching with rashes the next day.’
      • ‘Even radiation will have settled down into the rightly so - called background radiation corresponding to nearly zero temperature.’
      • ‘With temperatures plummeting to below zero over the last week, British Waterways staff are worried children especially are putting themselves at risk by playing on the thin ice.’
      • ‘MRI scanners use magnetic fields which need helium gas to keep them to almost absolutely zero temperatures.’
      • ‘The audience huddled in sleeping bags and blankets as the temperature sank below zero.’
      • ‘Temperatures plunged below zero again last night.’
      • ‘They can stand temperatures of 35F below zero and their normal life span is two years.’
      • ‘Roads and footpaths became skating rinks yesterday as temperatures dipped below zero - again.’
      • ‘She said that with all the people dancing and singing she didn't feel cold at all, even though she thought the temperature was definitely below zero.’
      • ‘Each day starts at about 5 am in below zero temperatures.’
      • ‘With temperatures below zero and icy roads many people were unable to get into the village for supplies of candles, batteries for torches etc.’
      • ‘There were several days of temperatures 20-25 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit.’
      • ‘A blast of Arctic weather is expected to hit Scotland later today sending temperatures well below zero and causing road chaos.’
      • ‘The desert terrain is difficult with summer temperatures soaring to 40 degrees Celsius and above, while by mid-October, the temperatures are below zero.’
      • ‘With an average temperature of 60 degrees below zero, any water near the surface of Mars would freeze solid.’
    3. 1.3 The temperature corresponding to 0° on the Fahrenheit scale (approximately minus 18° Celsius), considered a very cold temperature, especially for outdoor activities.
      ‘thirty below zero!’
      See also subzero
      • ‘The average percent differences of these two methods for CO calculation were approximately zero.’
      • ‘The incremental expense of doing so is approximately zero compared to the price of the land.’
      • ‘Don't worry - the chances of Westlife being number one on Sunday now seem to be approximately zero.’
      • ‘The distribution was also approximately symmetric about zero.’
      • ‘Once they are established in an outdoor garden, primroses can survive temperatures to zero and colder.’
      • ‘It felt like 28 below zero - too cold for our visitors from the West Coast.’
      • ‘The arctic fox doesn't even start shivering until about minus 70 below zero.’
      • ‘In Winnipeg, the temperature fell to zero degrees Celsius, breaking the previous record of 0.6 C set in 1895.’
      • ‘The significance of the endorsement should be approximately zero.’
      • ‘The threshold of enterprise is approximately zero.’
      • ‘Last night our temp dropped to 11 Celsius below zero, it's sure nice to have warm gear.’
    4. 1.4Linguistics usually as modifier The absence of an actual word or morpheme to realize a syntactic or morphological phenomenon.
      ‘the zero plural in “three sheep.”’
    5. 1.5 The lowest possible amount or level; nothing at all.
      ‘I rated my chances as zero’
      • ‘I think that our economic plan has zero chance of working.’
      • ‘Take some time to explore your behavior and attitudes and honestly assess it on a level of zero to one hundred.’
      • ‘In health, however, health levels would not be zero if there were no health expenditures that is, no health systems.’
      • ‘Of the 12 original Barcelona partners, Cyprus and Malta are inside the EU and Turkey is in the waiting room, but the rest have zero chance of joining.’
      • ‘The chances of that happening are pretty slim, but IIB Bank chief economist Austin Hughes believes there is more than a zero chance of the euro being dumped.’
      • ‘She was sick of people feeling sorry for her because her confidence level was zero.’
      • ‘McClintock's chances had been zero, now they are greater.’
      • ‘You will see how my anxiety level went from zero to a million over the span of an hour.’
      • ‘Scieh said the zero level of fatalities was ‘encouraging’, although there is no guarantee no one will succumb this year.’
      nothing, nil, nothing at all, not a single thing, not anything, none
      rock bottom, the bottom, the lowest point, the all-time low, as low as one can get, low-water mark, the depths, the nadir
      View synonyms
    6. 1.6
      short for zero hour
    7. 1.7informal A worthless or contemptibly undistinguished person.
      ‘her husband is an absolute zero’
      nobody, nonentity, nothing, non-person, unimportant person, person of no account
      View synonyms


[with object]
  • 1Adjust (an instrument) to zero.

    ‘zero the counter when the tape has rewound’
    • ‘We zero the equipment, retest the sample, and, if needed, a second sample is tested.’
    • ‘The third and fourth settings on the digital timer should still have been zeroed, just as when the feeder was set originally.’
    • ‘Once it was zeroed the point of impact remained constant.’
    • ‘Pressure transducers were zeroed when each patient was admitted to the study per the manufacturer's instructions.’
    return to nought, return to zero, adjust to zero point
    View synonyms
  • 2Set the sights of (a gun) for firing.

    • ‘Once all weapons were neutral zeroed, they were night tested at the small arms range on our forward operating base - my platoon loved the new equipment.’
    • ‘All Wilson pistols are zeroed before shipping.’
    • ‘This at least gave the soldiers the confidence they needed that their weapon was zeroed and they could hit what they were shooting at.’
    • ‘For test firing, zeroing your rifle, or informal competition The Rock Jr. is tailor made for success.’
    • ‘Once the sight is zeroed for your rifle and load, it returns to zero repeatedly.’
    • ‘As I zeroed the rifle at 100 yards, I was hoping for groups of less than 3 inches.’
    • ‘Proper use of the borelight as detailed in the accompanying chart ensured that all optics and laser aiming devices were effectively zeroed to each weapon.’
    • ‘Both units mount and dismount easily, and I had no problems zeroing either optic.’
    • ‘Frankly, I was most interested in seeing if, once the rifle was zeroed, the shotgun barrel would shoot to the same point-of-aim at shotgun distances.’
    • ‘With the Ladder flipped down, you have a usable, albeit coarse, fixed battle sight zeroed for 50 meters.’
    • ‘Thirty yards is a reasonably good range for testing and zeroing a hunting air gun.’
    • ‘A protected post front sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation when zeroing.’
    • ‘Once barrels have a sight installed and have been zeroed, they can be interchanged.’
    • ‘With our test rifle fully fitted out, zeroed and ready for action, we headed for the range.’
    • ‘I zeroed the .223 at 50 yards which permitted me to check the alignment of the shotgun barrel with the rifle barrel.’
    • ‘At the range, I shoot my Sharps from the bench at 100 yards to zero the rifle and get the base line sight settings.’
    • ‘It took longer to zero the sight than it did to install the mount.’
    • ‘Once the rifle is properly zeroed, the ballistic data for the round used, along with weather data is simply entered into the hand-held computer.’
    • ‘As I was zeroing the scope, the movement of the bullet strike seemed to be quite accurate.’
    • ‘Once this is accomplished, the Aimpoint sight is zeroed - without firing a shot.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • zero in

    • 1Take aim with a gun or missile.

      ‘jet fighters zeroed in on the rebel positions’
      • ‘Whatever may be the movement of the target in the sea, the missile will zero in on it.’
      1. 1.1Focus one's attention.
        ‘they zeroed in on the clues he gave away about’
        • ‘The BA zeroed in on the mayor on the potholes that fill the roads.’
        • ‘A senior Kuwaiti diplomat told this corespondent this evening that the negotiations had now zeroed in on money.’
        • ‘He zeroed in on the critical assumption of full or perfect information.’
        • ‘Having decided to do something extra special, they zeroed in on a Measles Vaccination Programme in India.’
        • ‘He's zeroed in on the recent scholarly attention Ben Franklin has been enjoying and yoked that with the equally topical subject of academic plagiarism.’
        • ‘When Doris Duke zeroed in on him, he became front-page news.’
        • ‘Inadvertently, I turn my attention to the dance floor again, my eyes zeroing in on someone in a certain blue dress.’
        • ‘He then zeroed in on Monsanto's plans to plant up to 500,000 acres of transgenic soybeans in Venezuela.’
        • ‘It zeroed in on these youngsters in each districts, trained them and affiliated them to the Kudumbasree mission.’
        • ‘To gain wisdom from life experiences, youngsters ought to receive training on zeroing in on their inherent talents.’
        focus on, focus attention on, centre on, concentrate on, home in on, fix on, pinpoint, give prominence to, highlight, spotlight, underline, emphasize
        View synonyms
  • zero out

    • Phase out or reduce to zero.

      ‘the bill would zero out capital gains taxes’
      • ‘Loading in the shot, they calibrated and aimed the weapon, zeroing out the center of the zombie mass.’
      • ‘We zeroed out of our budget $4.5 billion that was the Community Development program.’


Early 17th century: from French zéro or Italian zero, via Old Spanish from Arabic ṣifr ‘cipher’.