1. a highest point or state; culmination.
2. the point on the celestial sphere vertically above a given position or observer.
And at the zenith of his fame, how he would suddenly appear at the old village and stalk into church, brown and weather-beaten, in his black velvet doublet and trunks, his great jack-boots, his crimson sash, his belt bristling with horse pistols, his crime-rusted cutlass at his side, his slouch hat with waving plumes, his black flag unfurled, with the skull and crossbones on it, and hear with swelling ecstasy the whisperings, “It’s Tom Sawyer the Pirate!–the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main!” – Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876
Hence it can hardly be wondered at that as his learning accumulated his practice dissolved, until at the very moment when he had attained the zenith of his celebrity he had also reached the nadir of his fortunes. – Arthur Conan Doyle, The Mystery of Cloomber, 1889
Zenith comes from the Middle English cenith, which in turn traces back to the Old Spanish zenit. The lineage continues to the Arabic samt meaning “road” as in samt ar-rās, “road above one’s head.”
Over the last 200 years, the pronoun whom has been on a steady decline. Despite its waning use in speech and ongoing speculation about its imminent extinction, whom still holds a spot in the English language, particularly in formal writing. Understanding when and how to use this embattled pronoun can set your writing apart.
Whom is often confused with who. What’s the difference between these two pronouns? Who is a subjective-case pronoun, meaning it functions as a subject in a sentence, and whom is an objective-case pronoun, meaning it functions as an object in a sentence. Who, like I, he, she, and they, performs actions, as in Who rescued the dog? (who is doing the rescuing in this sentence). Whom, like me, him, her, and them, is acted on, as in Whom did you see? (whom is being seen here, not doing the seeing). Whom more commonly appears when it follows a preposition, as in the salutation To Whom it may concern (Does it concern he? No. Does it concern him? Yes.) or in the title of Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel For Whom the Bell Tolls.
How do you decide which one to use? When in doubt, substitute him (sometimes you’ll have to rephrase the sentence) and see if that sounds right. If him is OK, then whom is OK. If the more natural substitute is he, then go with who. For example: You talked to whom? It would be incorrect to say You talked to he? but saying You talked to him? makes grammatical sense.
That said, in informal speech and writing, speakers will often opt for who where whom has traditionally been used. This choice sounds more natural and less formal to most native English speakers.
Do you ever use whom?
Please let me know if you’ve had trouble with whom in the past, I know I did!
Does this help with when and where to use it?
Have a wonderful day!
All My Best,