a. Flavor or piquancy: a spice that lends zest to the sauce.
b. Interest or excitement: "A spiral staircase always adds zest to a setting" (P. J. O'Rourke).
c. The outermost part of the rind of an orange, lemon, or other citrus fruit, used as flavoring: added a pinch of grated zest.
2. Spirited enjoyment; gusto: "At 53 he retains all the heady zest of adolescence" (Kenneth Tynan).
tr.v. zest·ed, zest·ing, zests
To remove small pieces from (a rind from a citrus fruit) for use as a flavoring in cooking: zested the lemon.
[Obsolete French zest, orange or lemon peel (now spelled zeste), bitter woody membrane dividing the kernel inside a walnut shell, citrus zest, from Middle French, alteration (perhaps influenced by zeste, onomatopoetic word used to imitate the sound of a hit or blow) of earlier zec, something of little value or importance, probably of imitative origin (expressing the idea of smallness).]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.