In 1651, Thomas Hobbes became the first person to use the word leviathan in the context of political entities, but it was in use since 1606 with the meaning "person of formidable wealth or influence". This sense emerged from an earlier reference to the gigantic sea serpent that shows up in several books of the Bible - the leviathan person, like the creature, possessed great power. The word, through Latin, comes from Hebrew livyathan, which could be used for several large animals, including dragons, serpents, and various sea monsters. That has an uncertain etymology, but the main theory that's been proposed is that it traces to the Proto-Semitic root l-w-h, meaning "twist", with the definition changing based on the notion of a serpent coiling itself. This would make it related to the Hebrew word for "wreath", liwyah, and the Arabic word for "bend", lawa.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.