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

Essential Meaning of leviathan

literary : something that is very large and powerful : giant The factory is a towering leviathan in the middle of the town. a leviathan corporation

Full 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

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 creatures 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 California is a land mass of 164,000 square miles, spread like a leviathan along the Pacific. Los Angeles Times, 8 Oct. 2021 But in the Mandate’s case, the real leviathan’s always changing its mind. Matthew Carey Salyer, Forbes, 25 May 2021 The federal government is a leviathan with many, many tentacles. Zachary B. Wolf, CNN, 29 July 2021 What would otherwise be an impenetrable leviathan is thereby made porous. Michael J. Lewis, WSJ, 21 July 2021 Andre the Giant, a seven-foot-four, 500-pound French leviathan, toiled mostly in the World Wide Wrestling Federation, the WWWF. Jon Wertheim, Vulture, 25 June 2021 In the land of Exandria, there’s a legendary leviathan that awaits at the bottom of sea. Rob Wieland, Forbes, 27 May 2021 Texas is there in the residual aroma of the mesquite and oak smoke coming from the kitchen’s massive wood-burning grill hung with wheels and pulleys like a steampunk leviathan. Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, 4 Mar. 2021 This literary leviathan would have 70 percent of the US Literary and General Fiction market. Christi Carras, Los Angeles Times, 25 Nov. 2020

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.

See More

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

Learn More About leviathan

Time Traveler for leviathan

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About leviathan

Dictionary Entries Near leviathan



leviathan stitch

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for leviathan

Last Updated

14 Dec 2021

Cite this Entry

“Leviathan.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/leviathan. Accessed 19 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on leviathan

Nglish: Translation of leviathan for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about leviathan


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!