Where Did the Term “Zealot” For an Extreme Fanatic Come From and What Does Zealot Mean In Greek?

A zealot is a supreme fanatic, often a bigot, and perhaps unfairly is best known in history as a radical Jewish political movement called the Zealots.

This sect joined with several other Jewish groups to launch a rebellion in Palestine against the Roman Empire in the first century AD.

Known for being aggressive, intolerant, and violent, the Zealots captured Jerusalem in 66 AD and held it for four years.

When Rome finally recaptured the city, it was destroyed.

The sect also captured the fortress of Masada and held it for several years against thousands of troops until the Romans set it on fire in 73 AD, leaving a handful of survivors to tell the tale.

The word zealot comes from the Greek zelotes, which means “a fervent follower.”

It is a synonym of the Hebrew word kanai, which means “one who is jealous on behalf of God.”

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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