Hello beautiful people,

I'm writing a poem and I want to make sure I'm using "zeal" and "zest" correctly. To give context, it's about a storyteller (being I) retelling a story of a man who is giving an inspiring speech and he's saying that the speech gives me such energy that I can retell it a thousand times more without getting tired:

"The zeal in his words blessed zest to my tongue - Unwearied if I a thousand times told"

I don't really get the difference between the two words. The reasons behind the word choice is a bunch of poetic devices. Are they being used correctly here?

Thanks again!

  • 1
    Zeal is used correctly, zest isn’t. You can refine your understand of their usage by looking up their respective definitions in a dictionary and comparing. But I’ll suggest the bigger picture here to take in is the risk of word-stuffing. A spicy word here or there to add zest enlivens a story. Too many ingredients ruin it. Be selective, and in particular never try to impress your audience with your brainpower or command of the language by artificially lobbing in “big words”. You want your readers’ attention on your story, not on you.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 18, 2019 at 13:01
  • Allow me to ask you: You are writing a poem in English with words you don't understand? A bunch of poetic devices: Which ones exactly? The sounds in zeal, zest and blessed? Even poetically, one can't bless "zest to someone's tongue". Funnily enough, poetry has to make image sense unless it is nonsense poetry.
    – Lambie
    Mar 18, 2019 at 13:06
  • (I’ll say here too that this particular pair of words, with their unusual initial zs, exacerbates this risk, because one is noticeable but both can’t be a coincidence, and so your audience will know you’re intentionally word-stuffing, and likely judge you for it. Even if they don’t, you will certainly distract their attention and break their immersion.)
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 18, 2019 at 13:08
  • @DanBron Thanks for your input. I really appreciate it! I have looked up their definitions before but just to make sure, is "zest" used to explain energy to do something or preform a task? Mar 18, 2019 at 13:15
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    @ParsaOveisi No, look how I used it in my first comment. It was intended to give you a sense of how it’s used. It can be used as you describe, but that’s a metaphorical extension of its concrete meaning. The dictionary will give you both the concrete and metaphorical glosses, as well as several examples for each. But I’d prefer you focus on the bigger picture I was painting, about the risks of word stuffing, especially with this pair, and maybe reconsider using one or the other entirely, rather than focus on how to stuff both in “correctly”.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 18, 2019 at 13:18

1 Answer 1


Both words can relate to enthusiasm and energy.

Zeal refers to passion or for a cause or objective sometimes extreme or fanatical manner. http://www.memidex.com/zeal

Zest is more about enthusiasm or eagerness. It also has a secondary meaning relating to cooking - scrapiing the outer part of citrus fruit. Originally it has the sense of "thing that adds flavor" https://www.etymonline.com/word/zest

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