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

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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

But the enormity of the climate change problem is impossible to communicate through policy talking points alone. Wired, "CNN's Town Hall Made Climate Change Personal—and It Worked," 5 Sep. 2019 His mission revealed fundamental facts about the mysterious Arctic Ocean, including its depth, the enormity of its pack ice, and the currents that move heat, water, and ice across the top of the world. Eli Kintisch, Science | AAAS, "Arctic researchers will lock this ship in ice for a year to study the changing polar region," 20 Aug. 2019 Took your first Juul hit while contemplating the enormity of your despair? Mac Schwerin, Vox, "The case against summer camp," 16 Aug. 2019 New research offers one way to look at the enormity of the cost as policymakers consider how to choose winners and losers in the race to adapt to climate change. Christopher Flavelle, New York Times, "With More Storms and Rising Seas, Which U.S. Cities Should Be Saved First?," 19 June 2019 To hold in his mind the enormity of one human existence. Rachael Allen, The Atlantic, "Reconstructing the Memories of Aging Matriarchs," 1 Aug. 2019 Now, with the proposal to change specialized school admissions dead in Albany, Mr. de Blasio will likely face pressure to confront the enormity of the city’s school segregation problem. New York Times, "Amid Racial Divisions, Mayor’s Plan to Scrap Elite School Exam Fails," 24 June 2019 Analysts say the wrangling over a meeting to talk peace offers a window into the enormity of the task of actually reaching a peace pact in a region of competing influences. Fox News, "Russian peace talks raise specter of shifting influence," 25 Aug. 2018 The transient weather, the forces reshaping the world every day, but also the permanent nature of continental drift and how this all fits together, the enormity of it. Anchorage Daily News, "50 astronauts, in their own words," 23 June 2019

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.

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First Known Use of enormity

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Dictionary Entries near enormity

enorganic

enorm

enormious

enormity

enormous

enormously

enosis

Statistics for enormity

Last Updated

12 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for enormity

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

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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

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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

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