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Enormity

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This means “gigantic,” right? It must because it is so closely related to “enormous.” True, common usage is bending this word in that direction. However, it also and primarily means an evil, shocking or immoral act,
one of great wickedness.

On entering Dachau, the American and British soldiers immediately understood the enormity of the crimes that had been committed there.

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Commonly Misused Words

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These three everyday words are frequently used incorrectly. Their true meanings may surprise you.

1. ENORMITY: Does not imply gigantic size. It means extreme evil, as in “the enormity of the murder of Abraham Lincoln.”

2. NAUSEOUS: Doesn’t mean to feel as if you are going to vomit; it means to cause that feeling in others. If you are about to toss your cookies, you are    NAUSEATED.

3. PERUSE: Does not mean to read quickly, to skim. It means to look over something very carefully.

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Enormity’s Two Meanings

Until fairly recently, language purists would have insisted (and many still  do) that “enormity” means the extreme extent of something thought to be evil:  the enormity of his lies, the enormity of Madoff’s fraudulent activities, etc.

However, because of the word’s similarity to “enormous,” through common usage “enormity” has picked up a secondary meaning of largeness of scale: the enormity of a building or the enormity of a writer’s body of work, for example.

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