800-pound gorilla

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Gorillas can be intimidating.

"800-pound gorilla" is an American English expression for a person or organization so powerful that it can act without regard to the rights of others or the law.[1]

The phrase is rooted in a riddle joke:

Q. Where does an 800-pound gorilla sit?
A. Anywhere it wants to.

This highlights the disparity of power between the gorilla and ordinary humans. 800 pounds are approximately 360 kg.

The term can describe a powerful geopolitical and military force, or, in business, a powerful corporate entity that has such a large majority percentage of whatever market they compete within that they can use that strength to crush would-be competitors.

In law, the phrase occurs semi-(in)formally as a characterization of judges vs. courts; as in: "Standard/Court Rule" vs "Gorilla/Judge Rule".[2]

The metaphor has been mixed, on occasion, with the metaphor of the elephant in the room.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Definition of 800–pound gorilla". Merriam Webster. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  2. ^ Offenkrantz, Ronald J.; Lichter, Aaron S. (Spring 2016). "Sua Sponte Actions in the Appellate Courts: The 'Gorilla Rule' Revisited". The Journal of Appellate Practice and Process. 17 (1). Retrieved April 4, 2023.
  3. ^ Stevens, Heidi (January 5, 2011). "The 800-pound grammar gorilla". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 3, 2013.