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

  • n. The target of a projectile, such as a missile or bomb.
  • n. The site directly below, directly above, or at the point of detonation of a nuclear weapon.
  • n. The center of rapid or intense development or change: "The neighborhood scarcely existed five years ago, but today it is the ground zero from which designer shops and restaurants radiate” ( Robert Clark).
  • n. The starting point or most basic level: My client didn't like my preliminary designs, so I returned to ground zero.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The point on the land or water surface below, above, or at which an atomic or nuclear bomb detonates
  • n. The location of any disaster

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the target of a projectile (as a bomb or missile)
  • n. the site of the World Trade Center before it was destroyed
  • n. the point of detonation (or above or below) of a nuclear weapon


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • So the Grumleys had set up almost at ground zero of the NASCAR explosion: directly across from NASCAR Village, on the other side of parkway, just a bit down from the driveway that led to the parkway from the speedway headquarters, an admin building in art moderne aluminum.

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  • In the past half-century, the meaning was extended to “the center of violent activity or sudden change,” and even to “the ultimate origin, very be-ginning,” as a near-synonym to the informal board-game phrase square one; as such, ground zero is lowercase.

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  • Ed Mathias was a managing partner at the Carlyle Group—a powerful private-equity investment firm in D.C. that counts among its partners and clients ex-presidents, prime ministers, and Arabian princes, and is also ground zero for liberal conspiracy theorists.

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