Word Stories

Now juggernaut is an odd little word. Firstly, just saying it aloud is fun. There’s something about the syllables that give it a nice bounce. But the meaning is a bit trickier. Correct me if I’m wrong but I had always understood a juggernaut to be a particularly large lorry or truck, something like this definition from thefreedictionary.com:

2. (Engineering / Automotive Engineering) Brit a very large lorry for transporting goods by road, esp one that travels throughout Europe

Yet when you start to dig around in juggernaut, it seems that this meaning isn’t that common after all and some dictionaries don’t even include it. Many definitions refer to a meaning more like this one:

3. Used as a title for the Hindu deity Krishna.

Juggernaut, then, came into English through Hindi with the word jagannath, meaning ‘lord of the world’. This in fact came from Sanskrit jagat, meaning ‘world’…

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