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enormity

[ih-nawr-mi-tee] /ɪˈnɔr mɪ ti/
noun, plural 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.
greatness of size, scope, extent, or influence; immensity:
The enormity of such an act of generosity is staggering.
Origin
late Middle English
1425-1475
1425-75; late Middle English enormite < Middle French < Latin ēnormitās. See enorm, -ty2
Can be confused
enormity, enormousness (see usage note at the current entry)
Synonyms
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 Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples for enormity
  • enormity does not mean enormous but great wickedness, a monstrous act.
  • Memories of an earlier enormity are one reason for the hysteria.
  • As the fire truck drives away you can see the enormity of the fire.
  • The enormity of the neighborhood's affliction will take a few more years to come to light.
  • The enormity of our loss can not be expressed in words.
  • Surviving villagers are still struggling to cope with the enormity of the disaster.
  • The sheer enormity of the human suffering is something few are prepared to experience.
  • The enormity of global warming can be daunting and dispiriting.
  • The enormity of the disaster is beginning to be realized.
  • But the enormity of what happened means that sharp slap in the face will involve criminal prosecution.
British Dictionary definitions for enormity

enormity

/ɪˈnɔːmɪtɪ/
noun (pl) -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
Usage note
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)
Word Origin
C15: from Old French enormite, from Late Latin ēnormitās hugeness; see enormous
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
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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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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