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

Before the leviathan was dragged to shore, before it was found floating at sea trailing a slick of blood, the massive creature had had its run-ins with its greatest nemesis: human beings. David Abel, BostonGlobe.com, "As right whales surge north, one death too many," 15 June 2019 The putrefaction of the rotting leviathans was so violent that several curious onlookers dropped dead after taking a whiff. Nathaniel Rich, Harper's magazine, "Ruina Mundi," 10 May 2019 The muons indicated that one particular leviathan, which appeared on December 1, 2014, briefly contained an electric potential of nearly 1.8 gigavolts. Adam Mann, National Geographic, "Most powerful electrical storm on record detected," 23 Apr. 2019 The cryptocosm can mobilize computer power in volumes that dwarf even the data centers of the leviathans. Andy Kessler, WSJ, "Will Bitcoin Save Us From Google?," 15 July 2018 The flying leviathan is designed to carry rockets, including eventually a crewed spacecraft, to the edge of space and launch them. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Does Stratolaunch Have a Top Secret Purpose?," 22 Aug. 2018 The Trump administration takes this reshuffle to be a simple exercise in removing tentacles from the bureaucratic leviathan. The Economist, "Remaking the federal government," 28 June 2018 These tensions arose almost as soon as publication began, as the magazine confronted the leviathan of American slavery. Annika Neklason, The Atlantic, "160 Years of the American Idea," 27 June 2018 But perhaps by finding more of these leviathans, scientists can unlock the ancient mysteries of the sea. Julissa Treviño, Smithsonian, "Why Did Most Massive Bony Fish Behemoths Die Out?," 4 June 2018

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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leviathan stitch



Statistics for leviathan

Last Updated

18 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for leviathan

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

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English Language Learners Definition of leviathan

literary : something that is very large and powerful

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Spanish Central: Translation of leviathan

Nglish: Translation of leviathan for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about leviathan

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to take the place or position of

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