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, juosti "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.