• juggernaut •
Pronunciation: jê-gêr-nawt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An enormous, merciless force that cannot be stopped, an overwhelming, advancing force that crushes everything in it path. 2. Something that demands blind devotion or merciless sacrifice. 3. A title for the Hindu deity Krishna. 4. (UK) A large lorry (truck).
Notes: We are presented with so few situations that call for an adjective from this word that we haven't decided on one. Juggernautish has been suggested in the past, as has juggernautal. I would propose juggernautical as well . This word may be used unadorned by suffixation as a verb: "I've been juggernauted by the proponents of clean air."
In Play: We use today's Good Word generally in the sense of a movement that is unstoppable: "The Chinese economic juggernaut seems to have paused to catch its breath." This word has also picked up the sense of something that demands blind devotion: "I find it puzzling that so many Republicans have signed the Grover Norquist juggernaut to never raise taxes." Finally, in Britain it may refer to a very large truck: "Carmen Ghia's car was pretty much destroyed by the juggernaut that ran into it."
Word History: Todays' word is taken from Hindi jagannath "lord of the world", a title given to Krishna, eighth avatar (descendant) of the Hindu god Vishnu. It was also the name of a huge wagon carrying a statue of Krishna during the celebration of him. The first Englishman who witnessed this celebration reported that devotees threw themselves beneath the wheels of this wagon as sacrifices to the deity. Later visitors opined that they may have simply been pushed under by the press of the crowd. The original word was made up of Sanskrit jagat "world" + natha-s "lord, master", from nathate "he helps, protects". (We thank Mustapha Gahten for his suggestion of today's unstoppable Good Word.)