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behemoth

[bih-hee-muh th, bee-uh-]
See more synonyms for behemoth on Thesaurus.com
noun
  1. an animal, perhaps the hippopotamus, mentioned in Job 40:15–24.
  2. any creature or thing of monstrous size or power: The army's new tank is a behemoth. The cartel is a behemoth that small business owners fear.
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Origin of behemoth

1350–1400; < Hebrew bəhēmōth, an augmentative plural of bəhēmāh beast; replacing Middle English bemoth

Word story

The original behemoth is found in the Bible. Job 40:15-24 describes a land-dwelling beast having mythic proportions (a tail like a cedar tree) and supernatural characteristics (bones like bars of brass and iron). The Hebrew word that is used ( bəhēmōth ) is the augmentative plural form of the word for “beast” or “animal.” Normally, bəhēmōth would translate as the plural noun “beasts,” but as it is used to describe a singular being, the interpretation is that of a mighty or monstrous animal.
Much folklore has arisen around behemoth. One story has it that behemoth, separated from its aquatic counterpart leviathan at the dawn of creation, will be reunited with it in an epic battle on Judgment Day in which each will slay the other. Following this biblical King Kong vs. Godzilla match, both animals will be served up as a feast for the remaining faithful.
Behemoth makes an appearance in such classics of literature as John Milton's Paradise Lost, Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, and James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Today we use it to apply to anything large, powerful, and often unwieldy.

Popular references


Behemoth: Thomas Hobbes's 1681 book on the English Civil Wars, from the Scottish revolution in 1637 to the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.
—Behemoth: A character in The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Behemoth is a walking, talking, gun-toting black cat, and a demon in disguise.
—Behemoth: A Polish rock band, playing what's known as blackened death metal, a mix of black metal and thrash metal music.
—The Behemoth: A video game development company, creators of the popular video games Alien Hominid (2004) and Castle Crashers (2008).
Behemoth: The second book in Scott Westerfield’s steampunk young adult series, published in 2010.
Related Quotations
  • "Whom the Hebrues call Bemoth that doth in latin playne expresse / A beast rude full of cursednesse."
    -John Lydgate Troy Book, II. xvii (1430)
  • "Behemoth, biggest born of earth."
    -John Milton Paradise Lost (1667)
  • "[T]he unwieldy behemoths of the old economy are falling over each other to reinvent their identities."
    -Oliver Burkeman If the name fits… Guardian (January 8, 2001)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for behemoth

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Hath he no the smooth face o' a bairn and the thews' o' Behemoth?'

    Micah Clarke

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Behemoth was a Strephon, and he thought that he had found his Chloe.

    Garrison's Finish

    W. B. M. Ferguson

  • While the planet bombs dropped, the behemoth began to rise again.

    Victory

    Lester del Rey

  • The beast is probably the same as the ‘Behemoth’ of the Bible.

  • There are other legends of the Behemoth too puerile to be narrated.

    Bible Animals;

    J. G. Wood


British Dictionary definitions for behemoth

behemoth

noun
  1. Old Testament a gigantic beast, probably a hippopotamus, described in Job 40:15
  2. a huge or monstrous person or thing
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Word Origin

C14: from Hebrew běhēmōth, plural of běhēmāh beast
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for behemoth

n.

late 14c., huge biblical beast (Job xl:15), from Latin behemoth, from Hebrew b'hemoth, usually taken as plural of intensity of b'hemah "beast." But the Hebrew word is perhaps a folk etymology of Egyptian pehemau, literally "water-ox," the name for the hippopotamus.

Long before Jumbo was dreamed of, a hippo was exhibited by George K. Bailey, who invented the tank on wheels now used so generally in the circuses. The beast was advertised as "the blood sweating Behemoth of Holy Writ," and he made several men rich. [Isaac F. Marcosson, "Sawdust and Gold Dust," in "The Bookman," June 1910]
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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper