Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



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.
  3. (countable) A breach of law or morality; a transgression, an act of evil or wickedness. [from 15th c.]
    • 1818, [Mary Shelley], chapter VII, in Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. [], volume I, London: [] [Macdonald and Son] for Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, OCLC 830979744, 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 5899908, 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) Great size; enormousness, hugeness, immenseness. [from 18th c.]
    • 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[edit]

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”.


Related terms[edit]



  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–present.