Can you think of a sentence that uses this word? The employees of Merriam-Webster apparently had science fiction on their mind because they had Isaac Asimov's name in an example using "zeroth" in a sentence for the website's Word of the Day entry on Friday (Oct. 15). The sentence reads:
"Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov's Zeroth Law for robots -- 'A robot may not harm humanity' -- supersedes his First Law disallowing a robot to harm an individual human being."
Perhaps an employee was reading Asimov's novel Robots and Empire or maybe Foundation and Earth or Prelude to Foundation when he/she came across the word and thought it would be good for a Word of the Day entry? Or perhaps it was vice versa and one of the books came to mind when coming across the word. Either way, Asimov's science fiction stories get more exposure, so all is well.
If your not as familiar with the Zeroth Law, it was added to Asimov's famous Three Laws of Robotics and read "A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm."
Anyway, I think it's ironic that I came across this Word of the Day because I've been listening to the audio book of Nightfall by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverburg (I've been listening to it for about an hour a day and am on the last tape). This makes me want to read my copy of Foundation or I, Robot.
And now for the definition of "zeroth." Merriam-Webster (known for it's Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary used by plenty of book publishers) defines the adjective to mean: "being numbered zero in a series; also: of, relating to, or being a zero."