mag·​ni·​tude | \ ˈmag-nə-ˌtüd, -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

According to The Weather Channel, the 4.4 magnitude quake hit about 7 miles north-northeast of Decatur, Tennessee, which is about 55 miles away from Knoxville. Megan Stein, Country Living, "A 4.4 Magnitude Earthquake Just Shocked Everyone in the South," 12 Dec. 2018 In the last 30 years, much smaller-magnitude quakes in California—Northridge’s 6.7 in 1994 and Loma Prieta’s 6.9 in 1989—caused billions in damage and killed more than 50 people each. Alissa Walker, Curbed, "Alaska’s earthquake didn’t kill anyone—here’s why," 3 Dec. 2018 Each of those earlier products represented an order-of-magnitude increase in Tesla's production volume. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Why almost everyone was wrong about Tesla’s cash flow situation," 26 Oct. 2018 On July 29, a 6.4 magnitude quake killed about 20 people and stranded hundreds of hikers on Mount Rinjani. Ben Otto And I Made Sentana, WSJ, "Powerful Aftershock Shakes Survivors of Indonesia Quake," 9 Aug. 2018 Earthquakes continue to shake the Big Island, with the most severe at around 8:30 a.m. producing a 4.4 magnitude quake. Fox News, "The Latest: Hawaii volcano ash declines, no tsunami threat," 16 May 2018 Roughly an hour before the Ocotillo Wells temblor, a 4.5 magnitude quake hit in the Pacific Ocean, 56 miles west of the Northern California town of Ferndale. Eliott C. Mclaughlin, CNN, "4 earthquakes strike California," 8 May 2018 On Thursday morning around 10:30 a.m., a more significant 5.0 magnitude quake struck, which the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported caused a partial collapse of the Pu‘u ‘Ō’ō crater, located between the volcano and the Leilani Estates subdivision. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Cracks Open Earth, Endangering Neighborhoods With Lava," 5 May 2018 Many survivors of the 7.1 magnitude quake have lost everything. Vagney Bradley, Houston Chronicle, "Wildlife rescue group makes call for volunteers," 29 Mar. 2018

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

16 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for magnitude

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

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More Definitions for magnitude



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, -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 \

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).


tremendous in size, volume, or degree

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