Zenith, Summit, Acme, Pinnacle and Apex
Strangely English has five words that mean the top of a mountain (perhaps our first lexicographers were avid alpinists). Spirited hiking, however, is only the half of it. Typically, you will encounter these words in a figurative sense:
At the zenith of his artistic career, Elvis was outselling any other artist on the charts.
The Ivy League is considered the apex of the education system.
At its pinnacle, the Roman Empire extended across most of the landmass of Eurasia, a feat not paralleled to the rise of the British Empire in the 18th and 19th century.
The point at which the moon is farthest from the earth is known as the apogee. In terms of accomplishment or achievement, this word can refer to the highest point or culmination of something.
The apogee of the Viennese style of music, Mozart’s music continues to mesmerize audiences well into the 21st century.
If a person (or a thing) has reached such a point as to be god-like, then that person has reached an apotheosis.
As difficult as it is to imagine, the apotheosis of Steve Job’s career, many believe, is yet to come.
Who is Nadir?
With all these people reaching the top of the career, isn’t there a word that refers to the bottom or lowest point of a person’s career? The answer is, well, of course. Meet nadir. Nadir doesn’t have to refer to just a career, but can be the lowest point.
Mike had walked in cold to the new GRE and was not surprised afterwards that he’d hit a standardized test nadir. After he dedicated himself to GRE prep with the same vigor that Sir Edmund Hillary first scaled the summit of Mt. Everest, Mike scored near perfect—the apogee of his academic career.