1. a very large truck
2. something that is very powerful, especially something that has a bad effect
Origin and usage
The word juggernaut comes from the Hindi ‘Jagannath’ meaning ‘lord of the world’. The word is further derived from the Sanskrit ‘jagati’ meaning ‘he goes’ and ‘natha’ meaning ‘master’. The word juggernaut first appeared in Western writing around 1321 but didn’t become a common English word until the early 19th century.
Juggernaut refers to a powerful, unstoppable force.
Commonly used phrases that incorporate the word juggernaut include ‘ratings juggernaut‘ (referring to television), ‘box office juggernaut‘ (referring to film), ‘revenue juggernaut‘ (referring to an especially profitable company) and ‘tournament juggernaut‘ (referring to sports teams).
The word juggernaut possesses a figurative meaning which is related to mechanics. It is often used to mean something overwhelming, similar to a battering ram or steamroller. Its history stems from the British English version of the word which referred to a powerful and heavy type of truck. This meaning has been extended even as far as space travel and aeronautics to refer to spaceships. The word juggernaut is therefore often applied to sizeable machinery and vehicles that wield an unprecedented and otherworldly power.
This is likely how the word juggernaut came to be associated with an overwhelming, sometimes negative force that cannot be stopped. If you hear the word juggernaut in contemporary usage, this is the context in which it is often deployed.
“Around the time of The Lord of the Rings, it was a shock to me just how big it is to be on that kind of media juggernaut. It was a big thing and the scrutiny was shocking.”
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.
It is not a hindi word. Jagannatha is an Odia Word. In the east indian state, Odisha, resides the lord of the world “Jagannatha- jagata(world) ra Natha(Lord). This is why the Britishers meant huge or powerful when they said this word. For us it is very sacred. No wonder why the Britishers felt it was bad for them.
The second meaning of a huge truck or vehicle, comes from the reference to Nandighosa- the ratha(chariot) of lord Jagannatha. Every year Puri, Odisha hosts a Ratha Jatra. The lord and his siblings travel from their temple to their mausi(aunt)’s place at gundicha. Lord travels in his huge sixteenth wheeler Ratha. The reference for the huge truck came from here.
It’s a Sanskrit word….not an Odia word
Thank you for your comments, Amlan and Artika. I am no expert on this subject, and the purpose of these posts is just to give a geenral idea of a word’s origins. While etymological sources vary, they all give multiple origins for this word, some mentioning Hindi and Sanskrit while others also mention Odia.
How did the word “juggernaut” come to mean “unstoppable force”? Since “juggernaut” translates to “lord of the world” which has nothing to do with “force”.
The origin story is quite fascinating. In the temple of Puri, Odisha (India) there is an annual festival called “Rath Yatra”, or the “car festival”. The temple deity “Jagarnath” along with his siblings start a journey from one temple to another in a huge chariot pulled by devotees. The chariot is about 45 feet high and weighs around 85 tonnes.
Once it starts rolling, you can’t stop it. So they just pull it for few minutes and then stop. Then again do it for a few minutes and stop and repeat the process till they reach the destination. Since it is witnessed by more than half a million people, some used to fall under the wheels of the chariot and got injured or died. This happened in olden days when security practises were not that strict.
Many Britons used to visit India to witness the festival. They saw an unstoppable chariot crushing people under it (albeit a very few). So they associated the word “Jagernath” with an unstoppable force which brings harm to people.
Now you know.
Thank you for this fascinating explanation, Priteem.
Thank you Priteem. This agrees with what I heard as a Uni student in Australia in the 1970’s.