English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What is the difference between extremities and extremes?

Which is more appropriate when attempting to convey that someone blows things out of proportion or is a bit hyperbolic? For context, this is the title of a sub-chapter.

share|improve this question

In this context, I think if you're looking for a noun from the adjective extreme, extremity (singular) is your best bet - meaning "extreme-ness".

Ex: The extremity of his reaction

The words extremity (singular or plural) and extremes have a few separating points.

One is that extremities can refer to physical things (your hands and feet, the borderlands of of country), while extremes generally mark ranges (as in temperature, weight, etc.) and other more abstract concepts.

Another difference is that extremity, as noted above, can be used to mean "extreme-ness", whereas extremes doesn't convey that meaning. Thus, the extremity of his pain makes more sense than the extremes of his pain.

Extremity is also the word used when describing dire situations. It connotes a level of hardship that extremes doesn't. Thus, help in extremity means help in desperate situations. Help in extremes doesn't sound quite right.

Particularly with the popularization of "extreme sports" and "extreme lifestyles", extremes can sometimes have a positive connotation that extremity can't.

There are also places where either word can be used with equal impact. In a desperate situation, you might be driven to extremities or driven to extremes - both mean drastic action.

share|improve this answer
Though to be honest, depending on how you word the subtitle, any of the three words could be suitable. "Extreme Anger", "Anger in Extremes", etc. – onomatomaniak Oct 25 '11 at 6:56

Extremities is used for concrete things that are far apart, extremes for abstract things. It sounds as if it's the latter that you want for your sub-chapter.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.