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.”