1 a often capitalized Leviathan : a sea monster defeated by Yahweh in various scriptural accounts
b : a large sea animal
2 capitalized Leviathan : the political state; especially : a totalitarian state having a vast bureaucracy
3 : something large or formidable
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."
"Fossils of the ancient leviathan were unearthed from 480-million-year-old rocks exposed on a hillside in southeastern Morocco." — Sid Perkins, Science, 11 Mar. 2015
"… [T]he extension of the Star Wars story has been the biggest global movie phenomenon since Avatar…. It is a leviathan, totaling nearly $4.5 billion in global ticket sales and an entire subcultural media industry." — Sean Fennessey, The Ringer, 25 May 2018
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Fill in the blanks to complete a synonym of leviathan that refers to something of monstrous size, power, or appearance: be _ _ m _ _ h.VIEW THE ANSWER
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