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

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.2 briefly shook Southcentral Alaska, including Anchorage, just after 6 p.m. Thursday. Anchorage Daily News, "4.2 earthquake briefly shakes Southcentral Alaska," 6 July 2018 Deal signings were down at this time last year from 2016, too, though by a lesser magnitude. Keith Bradsher, New York Times, "China Taps the Brakes on Its Global Push for Influence," 29 June 2018 Friday marked the fifth day in a row an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.0 hit the summit. CBS News, "Kilauea volcano eruption: Seismic activity increases, earthquakes strike 5 days in a row," 15 June 2018 From a distance of only 35.8 million miles, Mars will radiate at a magnitude of about -2.78, shining nearly twice as bright as Jupiter and second only to Venus. Fiza Pirani, ajc, "This July, Mars will shine brighter than it has in 15 years — Here’s why," 12 June 2018 But the reaction to the Weinstein scandal was of a different magnitude. Bryan Smith, Los Angeles Magazine, "How Lisa Bloom Bounced Back From Defending Harvey Weinstein," 8 June 2018 Dozens of quakes were reported in and around Ocotillo Wells in Imperial County, six of them larger than a magnitude 3, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Shelby Grad,, "Swarm of earthquakes hits seismically active region along California border," 13 May 2018 Because Flint was under emergency management, Earley, as EM, could make decisions of this magnitude on his own without input or approval from the city board. Richard Horan, The Christian Science Monitor, "'The Poisoned City' tells the horrific story of Flint's contaminated water," 10 July 2018 The next thing the world noticed was the magnitude of the trouble unfolding at GE Power. Geoff Colvin, Fortune, "What the Hell Happened at GE?," 24 May 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

11 Sep 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

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


the setting in which something occurs

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