Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
September 16th, 2016
Episode 649 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 16, 2016 is: juggernaut \JUG-er-nawt\ noun 1 : (chiefly British) a large heavy truck 2 : a massive inexorable force, campaign, movement, or object that crushes whatever is in its path Examples: Led by their talented shooting guard, the high school's basketball team was a juggernaut, winning the state championship three years in a row. "Under [Helen Gurley] Brown's editorship, Cosmo became a culturaljuggernaut.Its articles covered just about every topic its young female readers wanted to read about…." — Kate Tuttle, The Arizona (Tucson) Daily Star, 21 Aug. 2016 Did you know? In the early 14th century, Franciscan missionary Friar Odoric brought to Europe the story of an enormous carriage that carried an image of the Hindu god Vishnu (whose title was Jagannath, literally, "lord of the world") through the streets of India in religious processions. Odoric reported that some worshippers deliberately allowed themselves to be crushed beneath the vehicle's wheels as a sacrifice to Vishnu. That story was probably an exaggeration or misinterpretation of actual events, but it spread throughout Europe anyway. The tale caught the imagination of English listeners, and by the 19th century, they were using juggernaut to refer to any massive vehicle (such as a steam locomotive) or to any other enormous entity with powerful crushing capabilities.