AskDefine | Define Zion

Dictionary Definition



1 originally a stronghold captured by David (the 2nd king of the Israelites); above it was built a temple and later the name extended to the whole hill; finally it became a synonym for the city of Jerusalem; "the inhabitants of Jerusalem are personified as `the daughter of Zion'" [syn: Sion]
2 Jewish republic in southwestern Asia at eastern end of Mediterranean; formerly part of Palestine [syn: Israel, State of Israel, Yisrael, Sion]
3 an imaginary place considered to be perfect or ideal [syn: Utopia, Sion]

User Contributed Dictionary



From Hebrew ציון, tsi-yown


Proper noun

  1. A mountain in Israel upon which Jerusalem is built.
  2. Jerusalem itself.
  3. Metaphoric for the whole nation of Israel.

Alternative spellings

Derived terms


Extensive Definition

Zion (Hebrew: צִיּוֹן, tziyyon; Tiberian vocalization: tsiyyôn; transliterated Zion or Sion) is a term that most often designates the Land of Israel and its capital, Jerusalem. The word is found in texts dating back almost three millennia. It commonly referred to a specific mountain near Jerusalem (Mount Zion), on which stood a Jebusite fortress of the same name that was conquered by David and was named the City of David.
The term Zion came to designate the area of Jerusalem where the fortress stood, and later became a metonym for Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, the city of Jerusalem and the entire Promised Land to come, in which, according to the Hebrew Bible, God dwells among his chosen people.

Modern use

The name Zion appears 154 times in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). Some examples from the book of Psalms, which have been frequently recited and memorized by Jews for centuries, state:
  • "By the streams of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion." (Psalms 137:1)
  • "For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy. Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof; O daughter of Babylon, that art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that repayeth thee as thou hast served us." (Psalms 137:3-8) (King James Version, with italics for words not in the original Hebrew)
  • "The builder of Jerusalem is God, the outcast of Israel he will gather in... Praise God O Jerusalem, laud your God O Zion." (Psalms 147:2-12)


Zionism is a political movement and an ideology that supports a homeland for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel, where the Jewish nation originated over 3,200 years ago and where Jewish kingdoms and self-governing states existed up to the 2nd century AD. While Zionism is based in part upon religious tradition linking the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, the modern movement was originally secular, beginning largely as a response to rampant antisemitism in Europe during the 19th century. After a number of advances and setbacks, and after the Holocaust had destroyed Jewish society in Europe, the Zionist movement culminated in the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and succeeded in reaching the zionist dream or goal.


The Jewish longing for Zion, starting with the deportation and enslavement of Jews during the Babylonian captivity, was adopted as a metaphor by Christianized Black slaves. Thus, Zion symbolizes a longing by wandering peoples for a safe homeland. This could be a literal place such as in Ethiopia for Rastafari for example. For others, it has taken on a more spiritual meaning—a safe spiritual homeland, like in heaven, or a kind of peace of mind in one's present life.

Rastafari movement

For Rastafarians, Zion is to be found in Africa, and more specifically in Ethiopia, where the term is also in use. Some Rastas believe themselves to represent the real Children of Israel in modern times, and their goal is to repatriate to Africa, or to Zion. Rasta reggae is peppered with references to Zion; among the best-known examples are the Bob Marley songs '"Zion Train," "Iron Lion Zion," and the Damian Marley song "Road to Zion." Reggae groups such as Steel Pulse and Cocoa Tea also have many references to Zion in their various songs. In recent years, such references have also "crossed over" into pop music thanks to artists like OAR, Sublime, Lauryn Hill, Boney M (Rivers of Babylon), Dreadzone with the reggae-tinged track "Zion Youth."
Example from the Mad Professor song "Africa Is Zion": "Africa is Zion and Zion is Africa, Ethiopia is Mount Zion / Them tell us that Africa is Africa, the Bible tell us it's Zion."
"Zion" stands for a Utopian place of unity, peace and freedom, as opposed to "Babylon," the oppressing and exploiting system of the western world and a place of evil.

Ugaritic texts and the Bible

In texts uncovered at Ugarit, references to "Zephon" (Tsephon) have been identified with the Syrian mountain Jebel Aqra. In these texts, the mountain is the holy place of the gods, where the god known as the "Lord" reigns over the divine assembly. The word "Zephon" is a common Semitic word for "North", and some have considered it to be possibly cognate with the Hebrew name Zion (Tsiyyon). mentions both terms together: "...Har-Tsiyyon yarktey Tsafon..." ("Mount Zion on the Northern side"), usually taken to refer to the north side of Mount Zion, not necessarily indicating that Zion is found to the North.

Mount Zion

Mount Zion is also the modern name of a hill south of the Old City's Armenian Quarter—the result of a misnomer dating from the Middle Ages when pilgrims mistook the relatively large, flat summit for the original site of the City of David. The Dormition Church (right) is located upon that hill.

The Daughter of Zion

The location of the Temple was neither a mountain nor a city, nor even the highest elevation near the city, but rather a smallish hill (Mount Moriah), and this hill is sometimes considered to be what is meant by the phrase "Daughter of Zion" - as though the Temple Mount is the "daughter" of Mount Zion. Another cryptic verse, , seems to refer to this hill, but is also ambiguous, depending on the punctuation. In Hebrew it reads "Mi attah Har-haGadol lifnei Zerubbabel l'mishor..."; the plain text has no punctuation, but the Masoretic text puts a pause following Har-haGadol, to mean "What are you, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel, [you will become just] a plain..." However, if the pause is placed following Zerubbabel, it would mean instead "What are you, "great mountain" before Zerubbabel? [You are just] a plain..." Since this hill is where Zerubbabel built the Second Temple, it appears to be a reference to the "Daughter of Zion" (the hill), as distinct from Zion (the mountain).


  • Steven Zarlengo: Daughter of Zion: Jerusalem's Past, Present, and Future. (Dallas: Joseph Publishing, 2007).
  • Damian Marley: "Road to Zion" (Song from the album "Welcome to Jamrock")
  • Zao: "The Last Song of Zion" (Song from the album "Funeral of God")
  • Trevor Hall: "To Zion" (Song from the album "The Elephant's Door")
  • Bob Marley: "Iron Lion Zion (Song from the album "Songs of Freedom")
  • Band P. O. D. (or Payable on Death) also mentions Zion in several of their songs one of them actually being called "Zion".
  • Sonic Syndicate: "Zion Must Fall" (Song from the album "Eden Fire")
Zion in Arabic: صهيون
Zion in Catalan: Mont Sion
Zion in Czech: Sijón
Zion in Danish: Zion
Zion in German: Zion
Zion in Esperanto: Ciono
Zion in Spanish: Sion
Zion in Finnish: Siion
Zion in French: Mont Sion
Zion in Hebrew: הר ציון
Zion in Indonesian: Zion
Zion in Japanese: シオン
Zion in Lithuanian: Sionas (religija)
Zion in Dutch: Zion
Zion in Norwegian: Sion
Zion in Polish: Syjon
Zion in Portuguese: Sião
Zion in Russian: Сион
Zion in Swedish: Sion

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Canaan, Celestial City, City Celestial, City of God, Civitas Dei, Cockaigne, Holy City, New Jerusalem, Shangri-la, arcadia, bliss, elysium, empyrean, fairyland, heaven, nirvana, paradise, promised land, wonderland
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