Zeitgeist – literally means “the spirit of the times” or “the spirit of the age.” Zeitgeist is the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time. Zeitgeist is the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual, or political climate within a nation or even specific groups, along with the general ambiance, morals, sociocultural direction, and mood associated with the current era. The term is a loanword from German: Zeit (cognate with “tide”) meaning “time” and Geist (cognate with “ghost”) meaning “spirit”.


The concept of Zeitgeist goes back to Johann Gottfried Herder and other German Romanticists, such as Cornelius Jagdmann, but is best known in relation to Hegel’s philosophy of history. In 1769 Herder wrote a critique of the work Genius saeculi by the philologist Christian Adolph Klotz and introduced the word Zeitgeist into German as a translation of genius saeculi (Latin: genius – “guardian spirit” and saeculi – “of the age”).