Dictionary.com
definitions
  • synonyms

enormity

[ih-nawr-mi-tee]
See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
noun, plural e·nor·mi·ties
  1. outrageous or heinous character; atrociousness: the enormity of war crimes.
  2. something outrageous or heinous, as an offense: The bombing of the defenseless population was an enormity beyond belief.
  3. greatness of size, scope, extent, or influence; immensity: The enormity of such an act of generosity is staggering.
Show More

Origin of enormity

1425–75; late Middle English enormite < Middle French < Latin ēnormitās. See enorm, -ty2
Can be confusedenormity enormousness (see usage note at the current entry)

Synonyms

See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
1. monstrousness, heinousness. 3. hugeness, vastness.

Usage note

3. Enormity has been in frequent and continuous use in the sense “immensity” since the 18th century: The enormity of the task was overwhelming. Some hold that enormousness is the correct word in that sense and that enormity can only mean “outrageousness” or “atrociousness”: The enormity of his offenses appalled the public. Enormity occurs regularly in edited writing with the meanings both of great size and of outrageous or horrifying character, behavior, etc. Many people, however, continue to regard enormity in the sense of great size as nonstandard.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for enormity

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • His pessimism about his play caused him to exaggerate the enormity of his offences.

    The Foolish Lovers

    St. John G. Ervine

  • These chaps seemed to value a man by the enormity and number of his crimes.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Until now the enormity of his offence had not penetrated her understanding.

    Meadow Grass

    Alice Brown

  • I never dreamed of any enormity greater than I have committed.

    Mountain Meditations

    L. Lind-af-Hageby

  • Jon stood motionless, his head reeling at the enormity of what he had done.

    The Velvet Glove

    Harry Harrison


British Dictionary definitions for enormity

enormity

noun plural -ties
  1. the quality or character of being outrageous; extreme wickedness
  2. an act of great wickedness; atrocity
  3. informal vastness of size or extent
Show More

Word Origin

C15: from Old French enormite, from Late Latin ēnormitās hugeness; see enormous

usage

In modern English, it is common to talk about the enormity of something such as a task or a problem, but one should not talk about the enormity of an object or area: distribution is a problem because of India's enormous size (not India's enormity)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for enormity

n.

late 15c., "transgression, crime, irregularity," from Old French énormité "extravagance, enormity, atrocity, heinous sin," from Latin enormitatem (nominative enormitas) "hugeness, vastness, irregularity," from enormis (see enormous). Meaning "extreme wickedness" in English attested from 1560s; sense of "hugeness" (1792) is etymological but probably best avoided to prevent misunderstanding.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper