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From Late Middle English ēnorme (monstrous or unnatural act; enormity), from Old French énormité (enormity),[1] from Latin ēnormitās (irregularity; enormity), from ēnōrmis (irregular, unusual; enormous, immense) + -itās (suffix forming nouns indicating states of being). Ēnōrmis is derived from e- (a variant of ex- (prefix meaning ‘out; away’) + nōrma (norm, standard) + -is (Latin suffix forming adjectives from nouns).[2]





enormity (countable and uncountable, plural enormities)

  1. (obsolete) Deviation from what is normal or standard; irregularity, abnormality.
  2. (uncountable) Deviation from moral normality; extreme wickedness, nefariousness, or cruelty. [from 15th c.]
    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.
    • 1816 June – 1817 April/May (date written), [Mary Shelley], chapter I, in Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. [], volume II, London: [] [Macdonald and Son] for Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, published 1 January 1818, →OCLC, page 6:
      I had an obscure feeling that all was not over, and that he would still commit some signal crime, which by its enormity should almost efface the recollection of the past.
    • 2015 June 6, Duncan White, “Boston Marathon bombing: New book ‘Road to a Modern Tragedy’ examines Tsarnaev brothers’ motivation [print version: Behind the mask, page R23]”, in The Daily Telegraph (Review)[1], London, archived from the original on 11 June 2015:
      Hannah Arendt coined the phrase "the banality of evil" in her dispatches for The New Yorker from Adolf Eichmann's trial in Jerusalem in 1961. It was her attempt to square the mediocrity of the man with the enormity of his crimes.
  3. (countable) A breach of law or morality; a transgression, an act of evil or wickedness. [from 15th c.]
    • 1816 June – 1817 April/May (date written), [Mary Shelley], chapter VII, in Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. [], volume I, London: [] [Macdonald and Son] for Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, published 1 January 1818, →OCLC, pages 161–162:
      Yet she appeared confident in innocence, and did not tremble, although gazed on and execrated by thousands; for all the kindness which her beauty might otherwise have excited, was obliterated in the minds of the spectators by the imagination of the enormity she was supposed to have committed.
    • 1870 July, Jean-Henri Merle d’Aubigné, “Dr Merle D’Aubigne on the Council and Infallibility”, in The British and Foreign Evangelical Review, volume XIX, number LXXIII, London: James Nisbet & Co., Berners Street; Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, →OCLC, page 591:
      Monsters of impurity, avaricious wretches, poisoners, have occupied the papal see. A learned bishop (Maret of the General Council) expresses himself with holy indignation in reference to the frightful enormities of the tenth century.
    • 1972, Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down, Folio Society, published 2016, page 93:
      In 1650 Lieutenant William Jackson was in trouble for holding, among many other enormities, ‘community of all things’, including, apparently, wives.
  4. (uncountable, sometimes proscribed) Great size; enormousness, hugeness, immenseness. [from 18th c.]
    Synonyms: ginormity (humorous); see also Thesaurus:size
    • 1997, Magda Denes, Castles Burning: A Child’s Life in War:
      I am in Amerika! I felt like weeping at the enormity of this fact. Amerika, the fabled, the mythic, the coveted. The knowledge that we had no visas, and therefore would not be allowed to set foot on land, dampened my enthusiasm only a little.
    • 2008, Edwin Mullins, The Popes of Avignon: A Century in Exile, New York, N.Y.: BlueBridge, →ISBN, page 103:
      But the enormity of Clement's vision of papal grandeur only became clear once the public rooms were completed during the years that immediately followed.
    • 2012 May 13, Alistair Magowan, “Sunderland 0–1 Man Utd”, in BBC Sport[2], archived from the original on 13 March 2015:
      [Wayne] Rooney and his team-mates started ponderously, as if sensing the enormity of the occasion, but once [Paul] Scholes began to link with Ryan Giggs in the middle of the park, the visitors increased the tempo with Sunderland struggling to keep up.

Usage notes


Enormity as a synonym for enormousness is sometimes considered an error, though other usage guides hold that there is little basis for the distinction. Both words ultimately go back to the same Latin source word ēnōrmis meaning “deviating from the norm, abnormal”.






  1. ^ ēnorme, adj. as n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 7 April 2018.
  2. ^ enormity”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.