enormity

noun
enor·​mi·​ty | \ i-ˈnȯr-mə-tē How to pronounce enormity (audio) \
plural enormities

Definition of enormity

1 : an outrageous, improper, vicious, or immoral act the enormities of state power— Susan Sontag other enormities too juvenile to mention— Richard Freedman
2 : the quality or state of being immoderate, monstrous, or outrageous especially : great wickedness the enormity of the crimes committed during the Third Reich — G. A. Craig
3 : the quality or state of being huge : immensity the inconceivable enormity of the universe
4 : a quality of momentous importance or impact the enormity of the decision

Keep scrolling for more

Enormity vs. Enormousness: Usage Guide

Enormity, some people insist, is improperly used to denote large size. They insist on enormousness for this meaning, and would limit enormity to the meaning "great wickedness." Those who urge such a limitation may not recognize the subtlety with which enormity is actually used. It regularly denotes a considerable departure from the expected or normal. they awakened; they sat up; and then the enormity of their situation burst upon them. "How did the fire start?" — John Steinbeck When used to denote large size, either literal or figurative, it usually suggests something so large as to seem overwhelming no intermediate zone of study. Either the enormity of the desert or the sight of a tiny flower — Paul Theroux the enormity of the task of teachers in slum schools — J. B. Conant and may even be used to suggest both great size and deviation from morality. the enormity of existing stockpiles of atomic weapons New Republic It can also emphasize the momentousness of what has happened the sombre enormity of the Russian Revolution — George Steiner or of its consequences. perceived as no one in the family could the enormity of the misfortune — E. L. Doctorow

Did You Know?

Although enormity has been used since the late 1700s to denote large size, this usage continues to be disparaged by various language commentators who argue that enormity should be reserved for senses related to "great wickedness." It is enormousness, they insist (a hefty and considerably less common word), that should be used in reference to great size, despite the fact that, like enormity, it too originally was used to denote wickedness or divergence from accepted moral standards. For better or worse, this proscription has been widely ignored by many English speakers, including professional writers. However one chooses to use them, enormity and enormous can both be traced back to the Latin enormis, from the prefix e- ("out of") and norma ("rule," "pattern," or "carpenter's square").

Examples of enormity in a Sentence

We were shocked at the enormity of the crime. They didn't fully grasp the enormity of their decision.

Recent Examples on the Web

My mind could not take it in, so my eyes needed to see it, to size it up, to make visual and tangible the horrible enormity. Loren Kleinman And Amye Archer, Marie Claire, "I’m a Survivor of Sandy Hook. This Is What The Past Six Years Have Been Like.," 14 Dec. 2018 Working at the World Trade Center site, where the twin towers stood until the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, carries an emotional gravity, and artists grapple with the enormity of that loss. Jane Margolies, New York Times, "Bringing a 5Pointz Vibe to Lower Manhattan," 1 June 2018 Luckily, a few artists are equal to the enormity of their subjects. Richard B. Woodward, WSJ, "‘Everything Is Connected: Art and Conspiracy’ Review: Paranoid Imaginings," 24 Sep. 2018 Nintendo's latest mascot-fighter sequel seems determined to wallop you over the head with its enormity, even after establishing itself as an oversized package. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Smash Bros. Ultimate review: The best fighting game on any Nintendo system," 6 Dec. 2018 While Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ’ price-setters should be flogged for profiteering, the redesigned 2019 Ram 1500 does indeed set new benchmarks for pickup-truck refinement, cabin content, efficiency and enormity. Dan Neil, WSJ, "A Luxury Truck Showdown: Ram 1500 vs. GMC Sierra," 11 Oct. 2018 In view of the enormity and seriousness of these allegations, a staff only phone call behind closed doors is unacceptable and Democratic staff will not participate. Fox News, "Kavanaugh to speak to Senate Judiciary Committee staffers," 18 Sep. 2018 In view of the enormity and seriousness of these allegations, a staff-only phone call behind closed doors is unacceptable and Democratic staff will not participate. Seung-min Kim, The Seattle Times, "Senate committee to hold public hearing with Kavanaugh, accuser after sexual assault allegation," 17 Sep. 2018 This conclusion captures the enormity of the statement. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "Trump’s Khashoggi statement is a green light for murder," 20 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'enormity.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of enormity

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about enormity

Listen to Our Podcast about enormity

Dictionary Entries near enormity

enorganic

enorm

enormious

enormity

enormous

enormously

enosis

Statistics for enormity

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for enormity

The first known use of enormity was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for enormity

enormity

noun

English Language Learners Definition of enormity

formal : a shocking, evil, or immoral act
: great evil or wickedness
: great size

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on enormity

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with enormity

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for enormity

Spanish Central: Translation of enormity

Nglish: Translation of enormity for Spanish Speakers

Comments on enormity

What made you want to look up enormity? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

highly pertinent or appropriate

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!