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 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 Melville’s leviathan has become a mirror for preoccupations everywhere. The Economist, "Born 200 years ago, Herman Melville was globalisation’s first great bard," 18 July 2019 Captain Sebastian the Black descends upon the Governor’s Gala, kidnapping guests, Princess Anita and a mermaid in possession of the Serpent’s Eye, which can summon a leviathan from the ocean. Kathleen Christiansen, orlandosentinel.com, "Talk Like a Pirate Day: Celebrate with scallywags from Pirate’s Dinner Adventure," 8 May 2018 But then something extremely not-boring happened: A gigantic leviathan creature crashed into their ship, destroying it and scattering Kadyn and Gil in opposite directions. Christian Holub, EW.com, "5 comics to read this August: Epic battles on fallen worlds," 2 Aug. 2019 This time of year is prime for humpback sightings in Monterey Bay: The hungry leviathans stop in the area each summer to snack on schooling anchovies. Sarah Keartes, National Geographic, "How a humpback whale ended up with a sea lion in its mouth," 30 July 2019 Google’s efforts to control its employees’ speech is a leviathan of a task for a company with nearly 100,000 global employees. Shirin Ghaffary, Vox, "Political tension at Google is only getting worse," 2 Aug. 2019 The symphony is a leviathan, clocking in at roughly 70 minutes, and the Shed stage was packed to the rafters. Zoë Madonna, BostonGlobe.com, "Boston Symphony Orchestra begins Tanglewood season in style," 7 July 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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The first known use of leviathan was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

15 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Leviathan.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/leviathan. Accessed 29 Feb. 2020.

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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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