HERDER Johann Gottfried, GOETHE Johann Wolfgang Zeitgeist (1789)

Zeitgeist (German pronunciation /ˈtsaɪtɡaɪst/) is a concept from eighteenth- to nineteenth-century German philosophy, meaning “spirit of the age”. It refers to an invisible agent or force dominating the characteristics of a given epoch in world history.

Now the term is usually associated with Georg W.F. Hegel, contrasting with Hegel’s use of Volksgeist “national spirit” and Weltgeist “world-spirit”, but its coinage and popularization precedes Hegel, and is mostly due to Herder and Goethe. Other philosophers who were associated with such concepts include Spencer and Voltaire.

Contemporary use of the term may, more pragmatically, refer to a schema of fashions or fads that prescribes what is considered to be acceptable or tasteful for an era, e.g. in the field of architecture.