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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 of enormity
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. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for enormity
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • However, we have already said our say about the enormity of the danegeld.

    Domesday Book and Beyond Frederic William Maitland
  • These chaps seemed to value a man by the enormity and number of his crimes.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • Of its enormity I have already spoken; but what about its origin, its uses, and its continuance?

    The Ascent of the Soul Amory H. Bradford
  • Mercedes begged, aghast, quaking in realisation of the enormity of her mistake.

    Nobody Louis Joseph Vance
  • Seeing the evil in all its enormity, it roused itself like a strong man to shake it off.

    From Egypt to Japan Henry M. Field
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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