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[bih-hee-muh th, bee-uh-] /bɪˈhi məθ, ˈbi ə-/
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.
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.
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) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for behemoth
  • Despite people's fascination with this deep-sea behemoth, the giant squid's life and habits have remained largely a mystery.
  • It has also become the biggest company in the world by revenues, a behemoth that strikes fear in the hearts of rivals everywhere.
  • But because they don't come in big-screen versions their energy use may compare well against newer behemoth sets.
  • Every behemoth on the cover of the muscle mags is juicing.
  • The carnivore snuffled the air as it approached the fallen behemoth.
  • For the unions, cities are a last stronghold, oddities where labour still has enough muscle to take on a behemoth.
  • Yet the risk only fuels the obsession of those intent on conquering the behemoth.
  • Many leading engineers and entrepreneurs now see the company as a bureaucratic behemoth.
  • As the name suggests, the prehistoric behemoth pretty much ruled its ecosystem.
  • There are behemoth freighters in port, and the gulls seem to eddy in the sky without purpose, though this can hardly be true.
British Dictionary definitions for behemoth


(Old Testament) a gigantic beast, probably a hippopotamus, described in Job 40:15
a huge or monstrous person or thing
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
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Word Origin and History for behemoth

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]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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behemoth in the Bible

(Job 40:15-24). Some have supposed this to be an Egyptian word meaning a "water-ox." The Revised Version has here in the margin "hippopotamus," which is probably the correct rendering of the word. The word occurs frequently in Scripture, but, except here, always as a common name, and translated "beast" or "cattle."

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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