Definition of leviathan in English:

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Pronunciation: /lɪˈvʌɪəθ(ə)n/


1(In biblical use) a sea monster, identified in different passages with the whale and the crocodile (e.g. Job 41, Ps. 74:14), and with the Devil (after Isa. 27:1).
Example sentences
  • The movie goes a little overboard with its repeated use of Plato's discussion of Atlantis, but makes up for it with the more obscure reference to the biblical leviathan.
1.1A very large aquatic creature, especially a whale: the great leviathans of the deep
More example sentences
  • These rare leviathans of the deep have not been seen in the North Atlantic for many years.
  • The humpback whale, that mighty leviathan of the briny deep, hardly strikes one as a marvel of agility; on the contrary, it seems the very embodiment of stateliness and power.
  • Leviathans are one of the nastiest water animals that ever swam the seven seas, and I thought that a leviathan was scaring the fish away from something.
1.2A thing that is very large or powerful, especially an organization or vehicle: it’s a challenge to navigate a wheeled leviathan in rush-hour traffic
More example sentences
  • She was in awe of the powerful old leviathan, and adjusted its controls with a naive reverence.
  • There is a palpable sense of the ghosts of ancient wars looking down grimly on a humbled leviathan.
  • Over the past 43 years he has worked in the trenches at such corporate leviathans as IBM and Xerox, and in between he has found the time to be an entrepreneur, running 21 companies in 17 industries at one time or another.
1.3An autocratic monarch or state: we must tame the state Leviathan
With allusion to Hobbes's Leviathan (1651)


Via late Latin from Hebrew liwyāṯān.

  • In the Bible Leviathan is a sea monster, sometimes identified with a whale, sometimes with a crocodile, sometimes with the Devil. In 1651 Thomas Hobbes published a treatise of political philosophy called The Leviathan, in which the monster in question is sovereign power. Modern uses of leviathan for ‘an autocratic monarch or state’ derive from this. Hobbes himself considered that an absolute monarch was essential to maintain an ordered state in a world in which ‘the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’. Leviathan has been used for something huge since the early 17th century.

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Line breaks: le¦via|than

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