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

The cut wasn’t a surprise, but its magnitude was—analysts had been expecting a subsidy decrease of about 40% to 50%. Jacky Wong, WSJ, "Beijing Gives Electric-Vehicle Makers A Long-Term Power Surge," 27 Mar. 2019 The magnitude of groundbreaking first-time female candidates elected around the nation is still sinking in. Marie Claire, "One Week Post-Midterms Here's What We Know," 13 Nov. 2018 Certainly, a bad start in a high pressure game of such magnitude, especially after the transfer saga that facilitated his arrival, could have been catastrophic for Van Dijk's Liverpool career., "Jurgen Klopp Reveals Surprising Details Behind Virgil van Dijk's Liverpool Debut in Merseyside Derby," 20 June 2018 The magnitude of these seasonal peaks — by a factor of three — was far more than scientists expected. Marcia Dunn,, "New Mars discoveries in ancient lakebed advance case for possible life," 7 June 2018 Despite the magnitude of Monday’s decline -- the Dow closed down 1,175 points, or 4.6 percent, paring about one-third of its biggest plunge -- few traders saw panic in the market. Lu Wang,, "Bad Day Turns Terrible as Dow Suffers Worst Point Plunge Ever," 5 Feb. 2018 Some of the players were collegiate stars of the first magnitude, such as Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner. Mark Inabinett,, "Dre Kirkpatrick offers advice after former Alabama players arrested," 25 Jan. 2018 Perhaps the magnitude and the weight of Oprah’s words provided new enlightenment to those who were kids as Oprah gained her superpowers. Byron Mccauley,, "Byron McCauley: Oprah should not run for president. But not because she can't win.," 9 Jan. 2018 Celebrities joined in, bolstering the cause, urging congress to act, to do something to keep a massacre of this magnitude from occurring yet again. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "A Year After the Parkland Shooting, Has Anything Really Changed?," 14 Feb. 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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Statistics for magnitude

Last Updated

10 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for magnitude

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

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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).


an enemy or opponent

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