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mam·​moth ˈma-məth How to pronounce mammoth (audio)
: any of a genus (Mammuthus) of extinct Pleistocene mammals of the elephant family distinguished from recent elephants by highly ridged molars, usually large size, very long tusks that curve upward, and well-developed body hair
: something immense of its kind
the company is a mammoth of the industry


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: of very great size
Choose the Right Synonym for mammoth

enormous, immense, huge, vast, gigantic, colossal, mammoth mean exceedingly large.

enormous and immense both suggest an exceeding of all ordinary bounds in size or amount or degree, but enormous often adds an implication of abnormality or monstrousness.

an enormous expense
an immense shopping mall

huge commonly suggests an immensity of bulk or amount.

incurred a huge debt

vast usually suggests immensity of extent.

the vast Russian steppes

gigantic stresses the contrast with the size of others of the same kind.

a gigantic sports stadium

colossal applies especially to a human creation of stupendous or incredible dimensions.

a colossal statue of Lincoln

mammoth suggests both hugeness and ponderousness of bulk.

a mammoth boulder

Examples of mammoth in a Sentence

Noun even as sport-utility vehicles go, that one is a mammoth Adjective Renovating the house is a mammoth undertaking. a mammoth book with color plates of birds native to North America
Recent Examples on the Web
Scientists long suspected that Columbian mammoths evolved earlier than their smaller, hairier cousins, the woolly mammoths. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 27 Nov. 2023 Humans may have used these traps to separate mammoths from their herds, leaving them as easy prey. Donna Sarkar, Discover Magazine, 17 Nov. 2023 Woolly mammoths went extinct in Alaska around 13,000 years ago; many scientists think human hunters were responsible. Richard Grant, Smithsonian Magazine, 24 Oct. 2023 Ultimately, the results revealed that the mammoth’s wool was present since the start of the species, but became more and more prominent over time, making the mammoth better suited to its frosty surroundings. Sam Walters, Discover Magazine, 15 Apr. 2023 Temperatures changed, severe droughts persisted, and food sources may have dwindled as animals like mammoths, mastodons, and giant sloths went extinct. Laura Baisas, Popular Science, 28 Sep. 2023 Archeological evidence indicates that the extinction of species like mammoths, giant kangaroos and other megafauna as a result of human expansion more than 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age, led to an increase in wildfires. Curtis Abraham, Scientific American, 9 Sep. 2023 But other findings from ancient mammoth DNA found in permafrost cores from northern Canada and Russia suggest mammoths may have been there less than 10,000 years ago, Wooller told USA TODAY. Mike Snider, USA TODAY, 20 Aug. 2023 Some scientists now hope to create something similar to a woolly mammoth, one species of mammoth, through cloning, using the same process that was used in 1997 to create Dolly the sheep. Cathy Free, Anchorage Daily News, 10 May 2023
The musician and fashion star launched an auction house that aims to take on Christie’s and Sotheby’s by selling items from his personal collection—and from those of his friends Louis Vuitton’s mammoth monogram luggage already sells for tens of thousands of dollars on the resale market. Jacob Gallagher, WSJ, 21 Nov. 2023 The mammoth, naked from the midriff up, looked as though he were headed to the pool. Zach Helfand, The New Yorker, 6 Nov. 2023 Still an tragedy but once again a mammoth fail of our mental health crisis! Amanda Morris, Washington Post, 28 Oct. 2023 The Trojans opened a mammoth 42-7 gap over the Tigers at halftime. Indy Star Sports, The Indianapolis Star, 19 Aug. 2023 Meta has lost more money investing in the metaverse than the total revenue for mammoth companies like pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb and United Airlines. Paolo Confino, Fortune, 27 Oct. 2023 Having published the study on Kik, Wooller and his colleagues are now analyzing another mammoth tusk. Richard Grant, Smithsonian Magazine, 24 Oct. 2023 When complete, the mammoth 50,000-square-foot estate will be worth a whopping $1 billion. Abby Montanez, Robb Report, 23 Oct. 2023 Beijing has loaned almost $1 trillion to developing nations in the past two decades, a mammoth amount that has fundamentally reshaped China’s position in the world. Shibani Mahtani, Washington Post, 12 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'mammoth.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



borrowed from Dutch mammut, mammuth, borrowed from 17th-century Russian mamant, probably borrowed from a presumed compound in Mansi (Finno-Ugric language of western Siberia), in modern dialects māŋ-āńt, mē̮ŋ-ońt, mā͔ŋ-ont, mā͔ŋ-ā͔ńt, literally, "earth horn," referring to tusks of the wooly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) found in arctic and subarctic Siberia

Note: The Russian word mamant, later mamont "mammoth" is first attested as a component of the possessive adjective mamantovŭ, occurring in the phrases mamantova kostĭ "mammoth bone" (1578, in the account books of the Antonievo-Sijskij Monastery in the far north of European Russia) and rogŭ mamantovŭ "mammoth horn" (1609, in a list of Siberian exports). The earliest known Western European reflection of this phrase is apparently in communications from employees of the London-based Muscovy Company. Richard Finch, a member of an expedition to the Pechora River in 1611, wrote in a letter to the company that "… being at Pechora [Pustozersk], Oust Zilma, or any of those parts, there is in the Winter time to bee had among the Samoyeds, Elephants teeth, which they sell in pieces according as they get it, and not by weight …It is called in Russe, Mamanta Kaost" (Purchas His Pilgrimes …The Third Part, London, 1625, pp. 537-38). A more detailed definition is found in a glossary of Russian words collected by Richard James (1591-1638), chaplain to an English embassy to Muscovy, who spent the winter of 1618-19 at Kholmogory, inland from Arkhangel'sk on the White Sea: "maimanto, as they say a sea eleφant, which is never seene, but according to the Samȣites [Samoyeds] he workes himself under grownde and so they finde his teeth or bones in Pechore and Nova Zemla, of which they make table men [chess pieces] in Russia" (B.A. Larin, Russko-anglijskij slovar'-dnevnik Ričarda Džemsa (1618-1619 gg.), Leningrad, 1959, pp. 181-82). Neither of these attestations had any impact on later scientific discourse on the mammoth, or the future of the word in English; James' word book, an important source for early modern spoken Russian, was scarcely known before the 20th century, and not published in its entirety until 1959. More influential were forms somehow transmitted without the n, which first appear in the writing of the Dutch statesman and scholar Nicolaas Witsen (1641-1717). Witsen visited Russia in 1664-65, reaching Moscow, but not the regions where mammoth tusks were found, and the identity of his informant is uncertain. He rendered mamantova kostĭ as Mammotekoos in an incidental reference in his work on shipbuilding (Aeloude en hedendaegsche scheeps-bouw en bestier, Amsterdam, 1671; 2nd edition, 1690). He describes how, on the banks of rivers "in a certain region of Muscovy" ("in zeeker Moskovisch gewest"), waters would expose "heavy tusks, which people judged to be from elephants, washed there at the time of the Deluge and covered with earth; they were called Mammotekoos by the Russians, Mammot meaning in Russian a large terrible beast and koos bone" ("swaere tanden, die men oordeelt van Olifanten te zijn, ten tijde des zuntvloets daar gespoelt en met aerde overstolpt : zy worden by de Russen Mammotekoos genaemt, Mammot is gesegt op Rus een groot vervaerlijck dier en voos [i.e., koos] been" [p. 3]). Witsen added much more information in Noord en Oost Tartarye (1692), a massive compilation on the geography and history of Inner Eurasia; the words are now rendered Mammout and Mammouttekoos, and the tusks reported to have been found most often on the Ob' River in Siberia and the sea coasts ("Aen de Oby en Zee-kusten worden ze 't meest gevonden …"). Witsen's books had very limited circulation. This was not the case, however, with the report of another traveler, the Holstein-born merchant and entrepreneur Evert Ysbrants Ides (1657-1712 or 13), who traversed Siberia in 1692-93 as part of a trade mission to China sent by the Russian tsar Peter. Ides is presumed to have accompanied the tsar to Amsterdam in 1697-98. There, under the auspices, and perhaps editorship, of Witsen, his account of the journey became the book Driejaarige Reize naar China, published in 1704; translations soon appeared in English (1706) and German (1707). Ides spelled the word mammut and mammuth—the latter, adopted in the English translation, most likely the source of the th spelling in English. The ulterior origin of Russian mamant, mamont has provoked much discussion, summarized in Marek Stachowski's article "Das Wort Mammut in etymologischen Wörterbüchern," Folia Orientalia, vol. 36 (2000), pp. 301-14. The Mansi etymology above was first proposed by Michel Heaney, "The Implications of Richard James's maimanto," Oxford Slavonic Papers, vol. 9 (1976), pp. 102-09; it was amplified and corrected by the Uralic specialist Evgenij Xelimskij (Eugene Helimski) in "Rossica: ètimologičeskie zametki," Issledovanija po istoričeskoj grammatike i leksikologii, Moscow, 1990, pp. 30-42. Note that the proposed Mansi compound would exactly parallel the compound jǡ-n'ǡ͔mt "mammoth tusk," literally "land horn," in the Samoyedic language Nenets.


derivative of mammoth entry 1

First Known Use


1706, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1801, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of mammoth was in 1706

Dictionary Entries Near mammoth

Cite this Entry

“Mammoth.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
mam·​moth ˈmam-əth How to pronounce mammoth (audio)
: any of various large hairy extinct mammals of the elephant family with very long tusks that curve upward
: something very large of its kind
a company that is a mammoth of the industry


2 of 2 adjective
: very large : huge

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