# Zero vs. Nothing: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 31, 2023
Zero vs. Nothing: "Zero" is a numerical value indicating the absence of quantity, while "nothing" is a conceptual term meaning the absence of anything.

## Key Differences

"Zero" is fundamentally a number, the integer denoting a null quantity in the realm of mathematics and science. It's a concept that revolutionized mathematics, allowing for advanced calculations and the development of algebra. "Nothing," however, transcends the numerical realm, representing a complete absence, void, or nullity in any context, not just quantifiable ones.
In everyday language, "zero" is often used to signify the lack of measurable quantities. For instance, if you say, "I have zero cookies," it means you do not have any cookies at all. In contrast, "nothing" is broader and denotes the lack of substance, matter, or even conceptual existence. Saying, "There is nothing in my hand," implies the absence of anything tangible or intangible.
The usage of "zero" can extend metaphorically to describe something worthless, futile, or insignificant. For example, "He's a zero," conveys that a person is deemed worthless or unimportant. "Nothing" can similarly imply nonexistence or insignificance but in a more absolute sense, as in, "You mean nothing to me," illustrating a complete lack of value or significance.
"Zero" has specific applications in various fields; for example, in temperatures, it's a point on a scale, such as zero degrees Celsius. "Nothing," however, doesn't fit into measurable parameters. It's a concept often explored philosophically, representing the idea of non-being or void.
In digital technology, "zero" represents one of the two binary codes fundamental to computing systems, the other being one. "Nothing," in this context, would mean the absence of data or value, not even the presence of zero. Both terms, while indicating absence, differ in their applications and implications, with "zero" often being more tangible or quantifiable than "nothing."

## Comparison Chart

### Definition

Numerical value
Conceptual absence

### Contextual Use

Quantifiable scenarios

### Philosophical Aspect

Represents null value
Represents non-being

### Symbol in Technology

Part of binary code
Absence of data/value

### Metaphorical Use

Insignificance
Absolute nonexistence

## Zero and Nothing Definitions

#### Zero

The lowest point or degree.
His tolerance for bullies was zero.

#### Nothing

Having no prospect of progress; of no value.
It's nothing, just a minor scratch.

#### Zero

The numerical symbol 0; a cipher.

#### Nothing

Not anything; no single thing.
I have nothing in my pockets.

#### Nothing

A person of no influence or significance.
They treated him like he was nothing.

#### Zero

A cardinal number indicating the absence of any or all units under consideration.

#### Nothing

Something that has no existence.

#### Zero

An ordinal number indicating an initial point or origin.

#### Nothing

Something that has no quantitative value; zero
A score of two to nothing.

#### Zero

An argument at which the value of a function vanishes.

#### Nothing

One that has no substance or importance; a nonentity
"A nothing is a dreadful thing to hold onto" (Edna O'Brien).

#### Zero

The temperature indicated by the numeral 0 on a thermometer.

#### Nothing

Insignificant or worthless
"the utterly nothing role of a wealthy suitor" (Bosley Crowther).

#### Zero

A sight setting that enables a firearm to shoot on target.

#### Nothing

In no way or degree; not at all
She looks nothing like her sister.

#### Zero

(Informal) One having no influence or importance; a nonentity
A manager who was a total zero.

#### Nothing

Not any thing; no thing.

#### Zero

The lowest point
His prospects were approaching zero.

#### Nothing

An absence of anything, including empty space, brightness, darkness, matter, or a vacuum.

#### Zero

(Informal) Nothing; nil
Today I accomplished zero.

#### Nothing

Something trifling, or of no consequence or importance.
- What happened to your face?
- It's nothing.

#### Zero

Of, relating to, or being zero.

#### Nothing

A trivial remark especially in the term sweet nothings.

#### Zero

Having no measurable or otherwise determinable value.

#### Nothing

A nobody insignificant person.

#### Zero

(Informal) Not any; no
"The town has ... practically no opportunities for amusement, zero culture" (Robert M. Adams).

#### Nothing

(archaic) Not at all; in no way.

#### Zero

Designating a ceiling not more than 16 meters (52 feet) high.

#### Nothing

Not anything; no thing (in the widest sense of the word thing); - opposed to anything and something.
Yet had his aspect nothing of severe.

#### Zero

Limited in horizontal visibility to no more than 55 meters (180 feet).

#### Nothing

Nonexistence; nonentity; absence of being; nihility; nothingness.

#### Zero

(Linguistics) Of or relating to a morpheme that is expected by an established, regular paradigm but has no spoken or written form. Moose has a zero plural; that is, its plural is moose.

#### Nothing

A thing of no account, value, or note; something irrelevant and impertinent; something of comparative unimportance; utter insignificance; a trifle.
Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought.
'T is nothing, says the fool; but, says the friend,This nothing, sir, will bring you to your end.

#### Zero

To adjust (an instrument or a device) to zero value.

#### Nothing

A cipher; naught.

#### Zero

The cardinal number occurring before one and that denotes no quantity or amount at all, represented in Arabic numerals as 0.
The conductor waited until the passenger count was zero.
A cheque for zero dollars and zero cents crashed the computers on division by zero.

#### Nothing

In no degree; not at all; in no wise.
Adam, with such counsel nothing swayed.
The influence of reason in producing our passions is nothing near so extensive as is commonly believed.

#### Zero

The numeric symbol that represents the cardinal number zero.
In unary and k-adic notation in general, zero is the empty string.
Write 0.0 to indicate a floating point number rather than the integer zero.
The zero sign in American Sign Language is considered rude in some cultures.

#### Nothing

A quantity of no importance;
It looked like nothing I had ever seen before
Reduced to nil all the work we had done
We racked up a pathetic goose egg
It was all for naught
I didn't hear zilch about it

#### Zero

The digit 0 in the decimal, binary, and all other base numbering systems.
One million has six zeroes.

#### Nothing

A nonexistent thing

#### Zero

Nothing, or none.
The shipment was lost, so they had zero in stock.
In the end, all of our hard work amounted to zero.

#### Nothing

In no way; to no degree;
He looks nothing like his father

#### Zero

The value of a magnitude corresponding to the cardinal number zero.
The electromagnetic field does not drop all of the way to zero before a reversal.

#### Nothing

Something of no importance or concern.
Don't worry about him; he's nothing.

#### Zero

The point on a scale at which numbering or measurement originates.
The temperature outside is ten degrees below zero.

#### Nothing

For no reason; without cause.

#### Zero

(mathematics) A value of the independent variables of a function, for which the function is equal to zero.
The zeroes of a polynomial are its roots by the fundamental theorem of algebra.
The derivative of a continuous, differentiable function that twice crosses the axis must have a zero.
The nontrivial zeros of the Riemann zeta function may all lie on the critical line.

#### Zero

The additive identity element of a monoid or greater algebraic structure, particularly a group or ring.
Since a commutative zero is the inverse of any additive identity, it must be unique when it exists.
The zero (of a ring or field) has the property that the product of the zero with any element yields the zero.
The quotient ring over a maximal ideal is a field with a single zero element.

#### Zero

(slang) A person of little or no importance.
They rudely treated him like a zero.

#### Zero

(military) A Mitsubishi A6M Zero, a long range fighter aircraft operated by the Japanese Navy Air Service from 1940 to 1945.

#### Zero

A setting of calibrated instruments such as a firearm, corresponding to a zero value.

#### Zero

(finance) A security which has a zero coupon (paying no periodic interest).
The takeovers were financed by issuing zeroes.

#### Zero

(informal) No, not any.
She showed zero respect.

#### Zero

(meteorology) Of a cloud ceiling, limiting vision to 50 feet (15 meters) or less.

#### Zero

(meteorology) Of horizontal visibility, limited to 165 feet (50.3 meters) or less.

#### Zero

(linguistics) Present at an abstract level, but not realized in the surface form.
The stem of "kobieta" with the zero ending is "kobiet".

#### Zero

(transitive) To set a measuring instrument to zero; to calibrate an instrument scale to valid zero.
Zero the fluorometer with the same solvent used in extraction.
George parked in space 34, zeroed the trip meter, closed and locked his car, then went back to the guard shack.

#### Zero

To change a memory location or range to values of zero; to set a variable in a computer program to zero.
Results were inconsistent because an array wasn’t zeroed during initialization.

#### Zero

(transitive) To cause or set some value or amount to be zero.
They tried to zero the budget by the end of the quarter.
The bill was over \$400, but the server zeroed it out as a gesture of gratitude.

#### Zero

(transitive) To eliminate; to delete; to overwrite with zeros.

#### Zero

(intransitive) To disappear.

#### Zero

A cipher; nothing; naught.

#### Zero

The point from which the graduation of a scale, as of a thermometer, commences.

#### Zero

Fig.: The lowest point; the point of exhaustion; as, his patience had nearly reached zero.

#### Zero

A quantity of no importance;
It looked like nothing I had ever seen before
Reduced to nil all the work we had done
We racked up a pathetic goose egg
It was all for naught
I didn't hear zilch about it

#### Zero

A mathematical element that when added to another number yields the same number

#### Zero

The quantity that registers a reading of zero on a scale

#### Zero

Adjust (an instrument or device) to zero value

#### Zero

Adjust (as by firing under test conditions) the zero of (a gun);
He zeroed in his rifle at 200 yards

#### Zero

Indicating the absence of any or all units under consideration;
A zero score

#### Zero

Indicating an initial point or origin

#### Zero

Of or relating to the null set (a set with no members)

#### Zero

Having no measurable or otherwise determinable value;
The goal is zero population growth

#### Zero

The numerical value “0” indicating an absence of quantity.
The score remained zero despite their efforts.

#### Zero

To adjust to a precise setting or measurement.
He zeroed the scale before weighing himself.

#### Zero

Lacking any positive qualities.
That fraudulent scheme was a zero.

#### Zero

The point of origin on a scale.
Temperatures dropped to zero overnight.

## FAQs

#### Can "zero" denote a lack of progress?

Yes, it can imply no movement or change from an origin point.

#### Does "nothing" refer to the absence of physical objects only?

No, it denotes the absence of anything, tangible or intangible.

#### Is "zero" less abstract than "nothing"?

Yes, "zero" is concrete and quantifiable, while "nothing" is abstract.

#### Can "zero" be used in a philosophical context?

Rarely, as it's primarily a mathematical term, but it can represent nullity.

#### Is "nothing" a nihilistic concept?

It can be, especially when referring to the insignificance of existence.

#### Can "zero" imply worthlessness in social contexts?

Yes, it can denote something or someone as insignificant.

#### Is "zero" ever used to represent absolute emptiness?

Not usually; it's more about the absence of quantity.

#### Can "zero" be a starting point?

Yes, often in measurements or scales.

#### Is "nothing" the absence of life?

In a philosophical sense, it could be interpreted that way.

#### Can "zero" exist in a vacuum?

In scientific terms, even a vacuum has properties, so it's not "zero."

#### Can you have less than zero?

In mathematics and practical scenarios, yes, indicating negatives.

#### Can "nothing" mean uselessness?

Yes, it can imply a lack of value or function.

#### Can "nothing" be a concept in digital technology?

Only in the sense of absence of data or information.

#### Can "zero" denote a point of no return?

It can, especially in the context of countdowns or deadlines.

#### Is "nothing" a void?

Philosophically, it's often equated with the concept of the void.

#### Does "nothing" have a numerical value?

No, it represents the absence of existence or value.

#### Is "zero" positive or negative?

Mathematically, it's neutral; contextually, it could be either.

#### Can "nothing" be an emotional state?

Yes, often indicating a lack of feeling or emptiness.

#### Is "nothing" always negative?

Not necessarily; it can just denote absence, not negativity.

#### Is "zero" an absolute concept?

In mathematics, yes, but its metaphorical use can vary.