Zinc oxide (ZnO) nanorods have been successfully synthesized by modified Pechini process. The as-synthesized ZnO nanorods were characterized by X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscope, Raman spectrum, ultraviolet–visible (UV–vis) spectrum. X-ray diffraction result shows that the ZnO nanorods are oriented in wurtzite phase. Raman spectroscopy measurements revealed the presence of E2 (high) mode at 437 cm 1 indicating the high crystallinity of the as-synthesized ZnO nanorods. The optical property of the ZnO nanorods were studied from their UV–vis spectroscopy analysis which exhibits the absorbance at 373 nm corresponds to the Zn–O absorption. A mechanism for modified Pechini process for the synthesis of ZnO nanorods using citric acid–ethylene glycol precursor has also been proposed.