Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun One who unconsciously mimics the traits or appearances of those with whom he or she associates.
  • noun One having a ubiquitous, often inconspicuous presence.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun An ordinary person who can change his appearance or behaviour to suit his surroundings, especially one who is unexpectedly associated with important people or events.
  • noun An unimportant person who appears at multiple important events.

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[After Leonard Zelig, the main character of the film Zelig (1983) written and directed by Woody Allen .]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From the name of a character in the Woody Allen film Zelig

Examples

  • The cheaply Pythonesque, if intermittently amusing, video montages that accompany this show insert, "Zelig" - style, the cast of "Rain" into archival footage from Shea Stadium and so on.

    chicagotribune.com -

  • These pickles, called Zelig's Pickles at the school, after the pickle expert who helped the students make them I think, Noah was a bit fuzzy on this are raw and lacto-fermented, made in the old style without vinegar.

    Pickles With a Purpose -- Kosher Half Sours Help Students Connect with Heritage and More

  • His targets: the Beltway Bandits (including anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, whom Brooks calls the "Zelig of Republican catastrophe"), the Big Government Blowhards (i.e., the talk-radio jocks), the Show Horses (Palin and Bachmann), and the Permanent Campaigners (Brooks doesn't name Eric Cantor here, but it's pretty clear to whom he's referring).

    msnbc.com: Top msnbc.com headlines

  • I still watch "The Brady Bunch" so having Eve Plumb in our home recently for a piece I was writing was one of those moments that made me feel as if I'd stepped into a "Zelig" sequel, plunked down into yet another pop culture play-lette.

    Chris Epting: Hello It's Me -- Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie

  • I still watch "The Brady Bunch" so having Eve Plumb in our home recently for a piece I was writing was one of those moments that made me feel as if I'd stepped into a "Zelig" sequel, plunked down into yet another pop culture play-lette.

    Chris Epting: Hello It's Me -- Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie

  • My grandmother was a friend of Jean Petersshe was kind of Zelig-like in that respect and gran has been dead for almost twenty years.

    Tuesday, Jan 27: the WCCO 1938 lineup – The Bleat.

  • As you can see, if you look closely at "The New York Times," on their web site announcement is my "Zelig" moment.

    CNN Transcript Dec 8, 2008

  • As you can see, if you look closely at "The New York Times," on their Web site announcement, my "Zelig" moment.

    CNN Transcript Dec 8, 2008

  • One of the earliest attempts to combine old and new film footage was Woody Allen's 1983 film "Zelig," a remarkable achievement for the day.

    Danny Miller: Audrey Hepburn: Dead is the New Alive

  • With characteristic self-effacement (thinly concealing a healthy ego), Gates has described himself as "a sort of global Forrest Gump," a kind of Zelig of cold-war Washington who has served seven presidents (mostly at the CIA) and worked with world figures from Margaret Thatcher to Anwar Sadat to Mikhail Gorbachev.

    The Gates Keeper

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