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Among the words huge, enormous and gigantic, does one word refer to something bigger than another does, or do they all refer to the same size?

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Slightly off topic but how many words does your teacher think were not made up? Pedants find an enormous difference between words made up more than five years ago and new words. And in this case any of the three words would work. – user31054 Nov 17 '12 at 22:29
up vote 6 down vote accepted

It’s not so much that they describe varying degrees of size as that they are used in different contexts. For example, we might speak of enormous pressure, but not of gigantic pressure, or of enormous power, but not of huge power. Moreover, I suspect gigantic is more often used attributively than predicatively (a gigantic loss rather than the loss was gigantic). Semantically related words like these sometimes appear in predominantly positive or negative contexts, but it would take considerable research to establish that that was the case with these three.

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I'm not sure why one couldn't, for the sake of stylistic variation or rhetorical emphasis, substitute one of those adjectives for any of the others. – Robusto Jan 30 '12 at 17:35
@Robusto: Perhaps you could. Only a thorough corpus search would show how frequent the various collocations are. I may not have chosen the best examples, but I wanted to make the point that, even though some words such as these all appear to mean much the same, in practice they are used in different ways. – Barrie England Jan 30 '12 at 18:59
Agreed. There are usage slots that certain words fall into, sometimes terminally, in which case they become cliches. All two-edged compliments become "backhanded" compliments, etc., and while the original trope might have been fresh and interesting, overuse dulls it to the point of exhaustion. – Robusto Jan 30 '12 at 19:56

They are all synonyms, so no none is bigger than any other.

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Ginormous is bigger than any of them, though. – JeffSahol Jan 30 '12 at 16:06
My old school teacher used to say that "Ginormous" was a made-up word (blending "gigantic" and "enormous") that came into popular usage when it was used in a Beatles movie. Although I see it is now in the dictionary. – Urbycoz Jan 30 '12 at 16:15
How does ginormous compare with humongous? – Paul Richter Jan 31 '12 at 1:07

protected by RegDwigнt Nov 18 '12 at 0:31

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