800-pound gorilla

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a. 1971, from a riddle: "Where does an 800-pound gorilla sleep?" / "Anywhere it wants."


800-pound gorilla (plural 800-pound gorillas)

  1. (idiomatic) An entity that dominates its environment.
  2. (idiomatic) Something dangerous, menacing, or frightening that is obvious but not addressed.

Usage notes[edit]

  • The weight in the metaphor can be varied quantitatively.
  • Occasionally other nouns are substituted, most commonly elephant from another idiom, but also more context-specific nouns, such as rutabaga in an article on gardening.
  • Occasionally adjectives are inserted to modify gorilla to bring the metaphor closer to the context.


Derived terms[edit]