le·​vi·​a·​than | \ li-ˈvī-ə-thən How to pronounce leviathan (audio) \

Definition of leviathan

1a often capitalized : a sea monster defeated by Yahweh in various scriptural accounts
b : a large sea animal this leviathan of animals is the great Blue Whale— Weston LaBarre
2 capitalized : the political state especially : a totalitarian state having a vast bureaucracy
3 : something large or formidable that leviathan of international corporations

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Other Words from leviathan

leviathan adjective

Did You Know?

Old Testament references to a huge sea monster, Leviathan (in Hebrew, Liwyāthān), are thought to spring from an ancient myth in which the god Baal slays a multiheaded sea monster. Leviathan appears in the book of Psalms, as a sea serpent that is killed by God and then given as food to the Hebrews in the wilderness, and it is referred to in the book of Job as well. We began equating Leviathan with the political state after the philosopher Thomas Hobbes used the word in (and as the title of) his 1651 political treatise on government. Today, Leviathan often suggests a crushing political bureaucracy. Leviathan can also be immensely useful as a general term meaning "something monstrous or of enormous size."

Examples of leviathan in a Sentence

The factory is a towering leviathan in the middle of the town. a leviathan of the seas, that cruise ship is said to be the largest passenger vessel afloat
Recent Examples on the Web This literary leviathan would have 70 percent of the US Literary and General Fiction market. Christi Carras, Los Angeles Times, "Penguin Random House to purchase Simon & Schuster in massive publishing deal," 25 Nov. 2020 The leviathan emerges long enough to swallow a bantha whole and then vanishes back below the surface. Alex Kane, USA TODAY, "The Mandalorian is back—and it doesn't disappoint," 30 Oct. 2020 The rare good idea largely emerges unexpectedly from fiercely competitive survival of the fittest, a process the leviathan of government need never endure. Kevin A. Hassett, National Review, "Five Questions for Ed Conard," 21 Aug. 2020 The first-gen VW Touareg offered a 310-hp V-10 turbo-diesel leviathan with 553 lb-ft of torque that was conceived and developed at the behest of Ferdinand Piëch to simultaneously elevate the diesel engine and the VW brand. Jens Meiners, Car and Driver, "2020 VW Touareg V8 TDI: In Europe, the Diesel Continues to Evolve," 6 Apr. 2020 The ships depart from Värtahamnen, a port that primarily handles ferries and not the leviathans that park closer to the city center. Andrea Sachs, Washington Post, "On a Baltic Sea cruise, board in Sweden and wake up in Latvia, then reverse," 4 Oct. 2019 Modernist buildings, the expression of a mechanical, anonymous vision of a social leviathan that individuals are born to serve, might as well be designed by machines. Myron Magnet, WSJ, "Drain the Swamp of Ugly Architecture," 6 Feb. 2020 Aegicetus is part of the family that increasingly spent time in the water, related to today’s leviathans. Riley Black, Smithsonian, "Ancient Whale Fossil Helps Detail How the Mammals Took From Land to Sea," 11 Dec. 2019 Ancient plumage: Scientists for the first time have found fossil features from dinosaurs that indicate the leviathans lived in the coldest parts of the world 118 million years ago. Keith Ladzinski, National Geographic, "Will rising seas claim Nasa's Kennedy Space Center?," 20 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'leviathan.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of leviathan

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for leviathan

Middle English, from Late Latin, from Hebrew liwyāthān

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Time Traveler for leviathan

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The first known use of leviathan was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

28 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Leviathan.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/leviathan. Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for leviathan


How to pronounce leviathan (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of leviathan

literary : something that is very large and powerful

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