late 14c., from Latin zona "geographical belt, celestial zone," from Greek zone "a belt, the girdle worn by women at the hips," related to zonnynai "to gird," from PIE root *yos- "to gird" (source also of Avestan yasta- "girt," Lithuanian juosiu "to gird," Old Church Slavonic po-jasu "girdle"). The 10c. Anglo-Saxon treatise on astronomy translates Latin quinque zonas as fyf gyrdlas.
Originally one of the five great divisions of the earth's surface (torrid, temperate, frigid; separated by tropics of Cancer and Capricorn and Arctic and Antarctic circles); meaning "any discrete region" is first recorded 1822. Zone defense in team sports is recorded from 1927.
1760, "mark with zones," from zone (n.). Land use planning sense is from 1916. Related: Zoned; zoning.
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