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:

"Where does an 800-pound gorilla sit?" [The answer: "Anywhere it wants to."]

This highlights the disparity of power between the 800-pound gorilla and everything else.

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 3 April 2017.
  2. ^ Offenkrantz and Lichter, "Sua Sponte Actions in the Appellate Courts: The 'Gorilla Rule' Revisited"
  3. ^ Stevens, Heidi. "The 800-pound grammar gorilla," Chicago Tribune. January 05, 2011; retrieved 2013-8-3.