mag·​ni·​tude | \ ˈmag-nə-ˌtüd How to pronounce magnitude (audio) , -ˌtyüd \

Definition of magnitude

1a : great size or extent cannot wage a war of such magnitude— A. N. Whitehead the magnitude of an earthquake
b(1) : spatial quality : size able to operate only over distances of very small magnitude— G. W. Gray
(2) : quantity, number the savings in amounts of metal … will be of dramatically significant magnitudesAmerican Fabrics
2 : the importance, quality, or caliber of something evil of such magnitude as must, if possible, be prevented— Jane Austen a writer of first magnitude— Richard Plant
3 : a number representing the intrinsic (see intrinsic sense 1a) or apparent brightness of a celestial (see celestial entry 1 sense 2) body on a logarithmic scale in which an increase of one unit corresponds to a reduction in the brightness of light by a factor of 2.512
4 : a numerical quantitative measure expressed usually as a multiple of a standard unit
5 : the intensity of an earthquake represented by a number on an arbitrary scale a magnitude six earthquake

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Examples of magnitude in a Sentence

the magnitude of the issue can scarcely be overstated the mountain's sheer magnitude usually leaves tourists speechless
Recent Examples on the Web Saturday’s quake occurred four days after a 6.4 magnitude quake in the same area and amid a spate of more than 1,100 mostly small quakes over the past 15 days. Danica Coto,, "Magnitude 5.9 shock adds to woes of island residents," 11 Jan. 2020 The quake happened at about 9 a.m. on Saturday as the island continues to grapple with the aftermath of a 6.4 magnitude quake on Tuesday that killed one and caused extensive damage, including knocking out most of the island’s power. Zachary Halaschak, Washington Examiner, "Puerto Rico rocked by another earthquake," 11 Jan. 2020 Saturday’s quake occurred four days after a 6.4 magnitude quake in the same area and amid a spate of more than 1,100 mostly small quakes over the past 15 days. Danica Coto,, "Magnitude 5.9 shock again rocks quake-stunned Puerto Rico," 11 Jan. 2020 The temblors came one day after the island was shaken by a 5.8 magnitude quake that crumbled homes and triggered states of emergency across the island. Sara M Moniuszko, USA TODAY, "Airlines offer fare caps amid worry about Puerto Rico flight prices in wake of earthquakes," 9 Jan. 2020 Another aftershock, with a magnitude of 4.9, rattled the area midday Thursday, sending people fleeing into the streets in panic. Arkansas Online, "Hopes fade for any more survivors in Albania quake; 46 dead," 28 Nov. 2019 Last year, Cuadrilla halted fracking after a tremor measuring 0.8 magnitude was recorded. Elian Peltier, New York Times, "U.K. Halts Fracking in England, Citing Quake Concerns," 2 Nov. 2019 While Union is known for a magnitude of roles, Bring It On is arguably her most recognizable 00’s film. Nandi Howard, Essence, "Gabrielle Union And Kaavia James Dress Up As The East Compton Clovers For Halloween," 28 Oct. 2019 Researchers tested MyShake and found that the sensors were able to pick up quakes as gentle as magnitude 5.0 within roughly 6 miles of the epicenter. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "7 Science Apps That Will Make You Smarter," 30 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'magnitude.' 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 magnitude

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for magnitude

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin magnitudo, from magnus

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Time Traveler for magnitude

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for magnitude

Last Updated

16 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Magnitude.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 23 January 2020.

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More Definitions for magnitude


How to pronounce magnitude (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of magnitude

: the size, extent, or importance of something
: a number that shows the brightness of a star
: a number that shows the power of an earthquake


mag·​ni·​tude | \ ˈmag-nə-ˌtüd How to pronounce magnitude (audio) , -ˌtyüd \

Kids Definition of magnitude

: greatness of size or importance “How can you term an undertaking of such magnitude mere peddling?”— Lloyd Alexander, Time Cat


mag·​ni·​tude | \ ˈmag-nə-ˌt(y)üd How to pronounce magnitude (audio) \

Medical Definition of magnitude

: relative size or extent

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Comments on magnitude

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


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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