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

Oklahoma has had six quakes of at least magnitude 4.0 halfway through this year, which is one more than all of last year. Fox News, "Oklahoma sees more severe earthquakes, fewer overall," 7 July 2018 Matthaus was asked the question before Low made his final roster cut, which speaks to the magnitude and surprise of Sane's omission. Grant Wahl,, "Lothar Matthaus Names His Top Germany Starting Lineup–Including Leroy Sane," 15 June 2018 Two of the quakes to date at Leilani are of magnitudes large enough to hint at a possibility of ground-breaking that is greater than that seen so far in the area. Wendell Duffield, Scientific American, "How Kilauea’s Lava Invades Neighborhoods," 8 May 2018 Serving as a member of the governing body of the city where I was born and raised has been an honor of the highest magnitude. Jessica Boehm, azcentral, "Daniel Valenzuela to step down July 16 to run for Phoenix mayor," 6 July 2018 China has pledged retaliatory tariffs of the same magnitude. Josh Boak,, "US economy added 213,000 jobs in June," 6 July 2018 What is the hardest part about paying tribute to someone with the magnitude that Prince's legacy has? Heran Mamo, Billboard, "Morris Hayes from New Power Generation Talks 'Celebrating Prince' Tribute at First Avenue: 'You Cannot Replace Prince'," 27 June 2018 Naturally, a project of such magnitude made for an epic on-set experience. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "How Netflix’s ‘A Great Day in Hollywood’ Got its Fashion Flavor," 25 June 2018 Each of them employs an order of magnitude more people than Facebook, which has an order magnitude larger market capitalization than either. Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic, "The Meaninglessness of the Stock Market Index in a Digital World," 20 June 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

6 Nov 2018

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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, -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

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playful or foolish behavior

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