When I was in Russia recently someone gave me a puzzle magazine. It was called Бегемот, the Russian equivalent of behemoth. It struck me that no-one would probably name a magazine Behemoth in Britain. The word is rare (in English anyway, it may be more widely known in Russia, as it seems to be synonymous with hippopotamus), and, moreover, most people wouldn’t know how to pronounce it. I include myself in that number – I’ve just checked on howjsay.com and also in the OED. The OED says the stress is on the second syllable, which is he, to rhyme with glee. Howjsay gives two possible pronunciations; it has a variant pronounced bee-yer-moth, with the stress on the first syllable.
Behemoth comes from the Bible; it’s used in Job 40:15: Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox (King James Version). The OED says: ‘In form the word is the plural of b'hēmāh ‘beast,’ and might be interpreted “great or monstrous beast”’. It goes on to say that the plural is used as a ‘plural of dignity’ ie similar to the royal ‘we’ where the plural is used to describe a high or important person. The Dictionary then goes on to say: ‘But most moderns take it as really an Egyptian word p-ehe-mau, which would mean ‘water-ox,’ assimilated in Hebrew mouths to a Hebrew form’. The definition in the OED is: ‘An animal mentioned in the book of Job; probably the hippopotamus; but also used in modern literature as a general expression for one of the largest and strongest animals’.