Definition of enormity in English:



  • 1The great or extreme scale, seriousness, or extent of something perceived as bad or morally wrong.

    ‘a thorough search disclosed the full enormity of the crime’
    • ‘That is why to me in a crisis of this enormity, I want to know the pure ‘news’ first before I can process the rest of it.’
    • ‘Even when the full enormity of the earthquake sank in, the scientists were at a loss to know what to do.’
    • ‘Like all the figures churned out in the aftermath of the tsunami, bewildering in their range and enormity, it can only be an estimate and will remain so for some time.’
    • ‘I am of course worried for him - you cannot ignore the threats, they had such enormity.’
    • ‘The complexity and enormity of the problem - it was out of our experience.’
    • ‘The full enormity of the tragedy has now emerged, and large sums of money have been pledged.’
    • ‘They should be incarcerated for decades to contemplate the enormity of their crimes.’
    • ‘Even as the full enormity of the attack continued to sink in, Nato and the UN Security Council were falling in behind the US line.’
    • ‘The bald figures of lives prematurely ended, of families bereaved before they should have been, however, barely hint at the enormity of the crime this man committed.’
    • ‘Even two months later, the enormity of the crime has not totally sunk in.’
    • ‘Knowing that there were moments such as these does nothing to diminish a sense of the enormity and horror of what went on.’
    • ‘This because the horror, the scale, the quantitative enormity and ‘serial’ nature of the crimes had exceeded any individual legal responsibility.’
    • ‘She gasped as she realized the full enormity of the situation.’
    • ‘Our gestures and words can seem small in the face of such enormity.’
    • ‘Some have defended plays about the notorious killings by reasoning that they serve to remind people of the enormity of the crimes.’
    • ‘There is, indeed, a sense of frustration with the difficulty, complexity and enormity of the issues that surround Family Law.’
    • ‘‘When you are dealing with murder, the enormity of the crime is such that there is no other appropriate sentence only a mandatory life sentence,’ he said.’
    1. 1.1(in neutral use) the large size or scale of something.
      ‘I began to get a sense of the enormity of the task’
      • ‘When someone of that enormity is taken out of your life in the present, someone who's been there as a part of your life for 30 years, as in my case, obviously, it's going to leave a void.’
      • ‘Considering the physical and societal enormity of China, however, the number of photographs devoted to the western provinces seems disproportionate.’
      • ‘The Government has not grasped the full enormity of what is happening to this industry.’
      • ‘With the multi-million euro shopping centre at its Shandon location now in full swing the enormity of its benefit to the overall economy of the town can hardly be overstated.’
      • ‘At this stage I have not had the opportunity to review the draft plan at the Council chambers so do not know the full enormity of the plan.’
      • ‘Such tools can create the illusion of enormity in a small room, or conversely create intimacy in vast spaces.’
      immensity, vastness, massiveness, hugeness
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  • 2A grave crime or sin.

    ‘the enormities of the regime’
    • ‘There is no doubt that the person to be tried committed criminal enormities.’
    • ‘Before the human and financial enormities of that conflict, leaders and citizens assumed that wars were what countries did.’
    • ‘Henderson would carry into battle a keen humour and surrealistic artistry as a civilising force to offset the enormities of war.’
    • ‘Such bloodstained enormities pass unnoticed now in a media pummelled into numbness by a government at last bereft of any moral sense or shame.’
    • ‘Men cease to be surprised at the most hideous moral enormities.’
    outrage, horror, evil, villainy, atrocity, barbarity, act of brutality, act of savagery, act of wickedness, act of cruelty, abomination, monstrosity, obscenity, iniquity
    wickedness, evilness, vileness, baseness, blackness, depravity
    View synonyms


Enormity traditionally means ‘the extreme scale or seriousness of something bad or morally wrong,’ as in they were struggling to deal with the enormity of the crime. Today, however, a more neutral sense as a synonym for hugeness or immensity, as in he soon discovered the enormity of the task, is common. Some people regard this use as wrong, arguing that enormity in its original sense meant ‘an extreme wickedness’ and should therefore continue to be used only of contexts in which a negative moral judgment is implied. Nevertheless, the sense of 'great size' is now broadly accepted in standard English, although it generally relates to something difficult, such as a task, challenge, or achievement


Late Middle English: via Old French from Latin enormitas, from enormis, from e- (variant of ex-) out of + norma pattern, standard The word originally meant deviation from legal or moral rectitude and transgression Current senses have been influenced by enormous.