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behemoth

[ bih-hee-muhth, bee-uh- ]
/ bɪˈhi məθ, ˈbi ə- /
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noun
an animal, perhaps the hippopotamus, mentioned in Job 40:15–24.
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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What Is The Origin Of The Word "Behemoth"?

What exactly is a behemoth? Well, the original behemoth was found in the ... duh, duh, duh ... Bible.

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Origin of behemoth

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

historical usage of behemoth

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 for behemoth


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.

Quotations related to behemoth

  • "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. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What is a behemoth?

A behemoth is a thing or creature of enormous size or power, as in An elephant is a behemoth that even lions and rhinos are afraid of.

The word Behemoth also refers to a monstrous creature from the Bible. In Job 40:15, an unknown large animal is referred to as a behemoth and is said to have immense power and eat grass. It is commonly thought that the animal being described is actually a hippopotamus.

Example: The powerful company is a behemoth in the electronics industry, dominating the market. 

Where does behemoth come from?

The first records of the word behemoth come from around 1350. It comes from the Hebrew bəhēmōth, a plural form of the word bəhēmāh, meaning “beast.” It is thought that the plural was used in the Bible to emphasize the creature’s might or monstrous size.

Interestingly, behemoth isn’t the only word we use based on a monstrous creature from the Bible. The word leviathan comes from the name of a giant aquatic beast mentioned in the Bible. According to one legend, the behemoth and leviathan will have a fierce battle on Judgment Day. Today, most people are likely unaware of the Biblical origins of behemoth. Now, the word is used generally to describe anything that is monstrous in size or power.

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What are some synonyms for behemoth?

What are some words that often get used in discussing behemoth?

How is behemoth used in real life?

Behemoth is a word people use to refer to someone or something that is very large and/or very powerful.

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True or False?

A building that towered over all the other buildings in a city could be described as a behemoth.

How to use behemoth in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for behemoth

behemoth
/ (bɪˈhiːmɒθ) /

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

Word Origin for behemoth

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
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