Her·​cu·​le·​an | \ ˌhər-kyə-ˈlē-ən How to pronounce Herculean (audio) , ˌhər-ˈkyü-lē- How to pronounce Herculean (audio) \

Definition of Herculean

1 : of, relating to, or characteristic of Hercules
2 often not capitalized : of extraordinary power, extent, intensity, or difficulty Herculean tasks Herculean proportions

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The hero Hercules, son of the god Zeus by a human mother, was famous for his superhuman strength. To pacify the wrath of the god Apollo, he was forced to perform twelve enormously difficult tasks, or "labors". These ranged from descending into the underworld to bring back the terrifying dog that guarded its entrance to destroying the many-headed monster called the Hydra. Any job or task that's extremely difficult or calls for enormous strength is therefore called herculean.

First Known Use of Herculean

1513, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of Herculean was in 1513

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Cite this Entry

“Herculean.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Herculean. Accessed 30 Mar. 2020.

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More from Merriam-Webster on Herculean

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for Herculean

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with Herculean

Spanish Central: Translation of Herculean

Nglish: Translation of Herculean for Spanish Speakers

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