noun (plural -ties) Date: 15th century 1. an outrageous, improper, vicious, or immoral act <
the enormities of state power — Susan Sontag
other enormities too juvenile to mention — Richard Freedman
2. the quality or state of being immoderate, monstrous, or outrageous; especially great wickedness <
the enormity of the crimes committed during the Third Reich — G. A. Craig
3. the quality or state of being huge ; immensity <
the inconceivable enormity of the universe
4. a quality of momentous importance or impact <
the enormity of the decision
Usage: Enormity, some people insist, is improperly used to denote large size. They insist on enormousness for this meaning, and would limit enormity to the meaning “great wickedness.” Those who urge such a limitation may not recognize the subtlety with which enormity is actually used. It regularly denotes a considerable departure from the expected or normal <
they awakened; they sat up; and then the enormity of their situation burst upon them. “How did the fire start?” — John Steinbeck
. When used to denote large size, either literal or figurative, it usually suggests something so large as to seem overwhelming <
no intermediate zone of study. Either the enormity of the desert or the sight of a tiny flower — Paul Theroux
the enormity of the task of teachers in slum schools — J. B. Conant
and may even be used to suggest both great size and deviation from morality <
the enormity of existing stockpiles of atomic weapons — New Republic
. It can also emphasize the momentousness of what has happened <
the sombre enormity of the Russian Revolution — George Steiner
or of its consequences <
perceived as no one in the family could the enormity of the misfortune — E. L. Doctorow

New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.

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  • enormity — enormity, enormousness 1. Both words are derived from Latin e norma meaning ‘out of the ordinary’, and both originally had meanings associated with wicked and criminal aspects of abnormality. Enormity (15c) is older than enormousness (17c), and… …   Modern English usage

  • enormity — enormity, enormousness both mean the state or the quality of being enormous but are rarely interchangeable in modern usage. Enormity imputes an abnormal quality; it applies especially to the state of exceeding all bounds in wickedness or evil,… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • enormity — ► NOUN (pl. enormities) 1) (the enormity of) the extreme seriousness or extent of (something bad). 2) great size or scale: the enormity of Einstein s intellect. 3) a grave crime or sin. USAGE Enormity is not related to enormous …   English terms dictionary

  • Enormity — E*nor mi*ty, n.; pl. {Enormities}. [L. enormitas, fr. enormis enormous: cf. F. [ e]normit[ e]. See {Enormous}.] 1. The state or quality of exceeding a measure or rule, or of being immoderate, monstrous, or outrageous. [1913 Webster] The enormity… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • enormity — late 15c., transgression, crime, irregularity, from O.Fr. énormité extravagance, enormity, atrocity, heinous sin, from L. enormitatem (nom. enormitas) hugeness, vastness, irregularity, from enormis (see ENORMOUS (Cf. enormous)). Meaning extreme… …   Etymology dictionary

  • enormity — [n1] horribleness abomination, atrociousness, atrocity, crime, depravity, disgrace, evil, evilness, flagrancy, grossness, heinousness, horror, monstrosity, monstrousness, nefariousness, outrage, outrageousness, rankness, turpitude, vice,… …   New thesaurus

  • enormity — [ē nôr′mə tē, inôr′mə tē] n. pl. enormities [Fr enormité < L enormitas < enormis, irregular, immoderate, immense < e , out + norma, rule: see NORM] 1. great wickedness [the enormity of a crime] 2. a monstrous or outrageous act; very… …   English World dictionary

  • enormity — index degree (magnitude), magnitude, weight (importance) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • enormity — /i nawr mi tee/, n., pl. enormities 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.… …   Universalium

  • enormity — [[t]ɪnɔ͟ː(r)mɪti[/t]] enormities 1) N UNCOUNT: usu the N of n If you refer to the enormity of something that you consider to be a problem or difficulty, you are referring to its very great size, extent, or seriousness. I was numbed by the… …   English dictionary

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