The nanocrystalline lead zirconate titanate (PZT) with the composition Pb(Zr0.53Ti0.47)O3 has been synthesized by mechanical activation, without calcination at intermediate temperature. The PZT powder that has been mechanically activated for 10, 20 and 30 h shows crystallite size of 15, 12 and 8 nm, respectively. Size effect on PZT formation, tetragonality factor and dielectric constant has been investigated in detail. TEM and AFM studies have been carried out to confirm the formation of nanocrystalline PZT. The temperature dependence of dielectric constant at different frequencies was also measured, to study the size effects in PZT ferroelectrics. The nanocrystalline PZT obtained by this route has high dielectric constant at Curie temperature in comparison to that prepared conventionally. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.