Definition of leviathan in US English:



  • 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).

    • ‘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.’
    monster, brute, beast, giant, colossus, mountain, behemoth, mammoth, monstrosity
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    1. 1.1 A very large aquatic creature, especially a whale.
      ‘the great leviathans of the deep’
      • ‘The reason for the fluctuations is uncertain, but if there were several large leviathans in the lake prior to 1860 as proponents believe, why was there only one highly doubtful sighting?’
      • ‘These rare leviathans of the deep have not been seen in the North Atlantic for many years.’
      • ‘Shoulder to shoulder, at least 20 people could stand with their backs against each of these leviathans.’
      • ‘While it's well known that many modern large animals, including Indian elephants, can swim, sauropods have long been viewed as bulky leviathans in a class of their own.’
      • ‘Back in the days when whalers hunted sperm whales, they often reported seeing fish fly through the air when the leviathans surfaced.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Blue whales, found in all the oceans of the world, are true leviathans, stretching as long as 100 feet and weighing as much as 200 tons.’
      • ‘Fish populations plummeted and eventually, when the canal was 30 kilometers long and the sea continued to move away, the boats were abandoned to lie like great leviathans on sands that were once sea bottom.’
      • ‘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.’
    2. 1.2 A thing that is very large or powerful, especially a ship.
      • ‘She was in awe of the powerful old leviathan, and adjusted its controls with a naive reverence.’
      • ‘Since a corporation's culture shapes the quality and range of its journalism, the danger in reducing ownership to a few leviathans seems clear.’
      • ‘Even so, say the skeptics, it's hard to make a solid business case for these leviathans.’
      • ‘The typical person lacks the resources, knowledge, and skills to take on the local leviathan that our local governments have become.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There is a palpable sense of the ghosts of ancient wars looking down grimly on a humbled leviathan.’
    3. 1.3 An autocratic monarch or state.


Via late Latin from Hebrew liwyāṯān.