from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The quality of passing all moral bounds; excessive wickedness or outrageousness.
  • n. A monstrous offense or evil; an outrage.
  • n. Usage Problem Great size; immensity: "Beyond that, [Russia's] sheer enormity offered a defense against invaders that no European nation enjoyed” ( W. Bruce Lincoln).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The state or quality of exceeding a measure or rule, or of being immoderate, monstrous, or outrageous.
  • n. That which is enormous; especially, an exceeding offense against order, right, or decency; an atrocious crime; flagitious villainy; an atrocity.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The state or quality of being enormous, immoderate, or extreme; atrociousness; vastness: in a bad sense: as, the enormity of his offense.
  • n. Enormousness; immensity: without derogatory implication.
  • n. That which surpasses endurable limits, or is immoderate, extreme, or outrageous; a very grave offense against order, right, or decency; atrocious crime; an atrocity.
  • n. Synonyms and Enormity, Enormousness. Enormousness is strictly limited to vastness in size; enormity, to vastness in atrocity, baseness, etc.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the quality of being outrageous
  • n. an act of extreme wickedness
  • n. the quality of extreme wickedness
  • n. vastness of size or extent


French énormité, from Old French, from Latin ēnormitās, from ēnormis, unusual, enormous; see enormous.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle French énormité, from Latin ēnormitātem, from ēnormis. (Wiktionary)



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  • I fear the battle to keep people from using "enormity" to mean (as one would logically expect) "the state of being enormous" is lost. That is an enormity we will just have to learn to live with.

    November 8, 2008

  • Barack Obama is an eloquent speaker, and no doubt politicians will study his cadence and delivery for years to come. But he misues enormity. See examples here.

    November 8, 2008

  • As seen in a Cracked's 9 Words That Don't Mean What You Think.

    November 26, 2007

  • 1. The quality of passing all moral bounds; excessive wickedness or outrageousness.
    2. A monstrous offense or evil; an outrage.

    USAGE NOTE (from the Free Dictionary):

    "Enormity is frequently used to refer simply to the property of being great in size or extent, but many would prefer that enormousness (or a synonym such as immensity) be used for this general sense and that enormity be limited to situations that demand a negative moral judgment, as in Not until the war ended and journalists were able to enter Cambodia did the world really become aware of the enormity of Pol Pot's oppression. Fifty-nine percent of the Usage Panel rejects the use of enormity as a synonym for immensity in the sentence At that point the engineers sat down to design an entirely new viaduct, apparently undaunted by the enormity of their task. This distinction between enormity and enormousness has not always existed historically, but nowadays many observe it. Writers who ignore the distinction, as in the enormity of the President's election victory or the enormity of her inheritance, may find that their words have cast unintended aspersions or evoked unexpected laughter."

    August 13, 2007