Throughout time, the spirit of the word zeitgeist has made many diachronic changes. A word used by pundits to describe pop culture, its definition is "the defining spirit or mood of a time" and it unsurprisingly is also a German word, one from which the English term was borrowed. This, like many long German words, is a portmanteau; in this case of zeit, meaning "time", and geist, meaning "spirit". Whatever the spirit of the time is: it makes sense! However, the "spirit" of geist goes back for more supernatural origins. This comes from the Proto-Germanic word gaistaz, which may sound familiar because it's also the root of yesterday's word, ghost. This, as we already found out, comes from the Proto-Indo-European word for "anger", gheysd. The zeit part really emphasizes the current definition, as it means "time", from the older word zit, which in turn stems from the Proto-Germanic word tidiz, which through a couple reconstructed transliterations, stems from the Proto-Indo-European word for "time", dih. This etymology, as can be traced to "angry time" is really funny when the aforementioned pundits talk about a "xenophobic zeitgeist" or something of the sort.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.