I would like to compile a list of adjectives that can be used to give information about the "bigness" of a problem.

Say for example in a report about the role of stress-related work disability a sentence like

In the healthcare sector, this problem is particularly xxxxxxxxx

Now, what? Big? Eminent? Prominent? Large? Virulent? Heavy? Important? Aggravating? Grave? Sizeable? Serious?

I suppose all of them would carry the message, but most of them would sound awkward. So, what would be good choices? What adjectives would usually be used in a formal context like a written report?

(I tried to give a very concrete example, but the question is meant more generally: adjectives expressing size that are good for combining with the word "problem".)

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    You can use pretty much anything you want. You need to pick based on how formal you wish to be and to what extent you wish to employ hyperbole. – Hot Licks May 22 '17 at 1:05

Well, what is the "big" aspect of the problem?

If the effect is large, you might describe it as severe.

If the risk it poses is imminent, call it critical.

If it will be unpleasant to solve, it's thorny, but if it's merely difficult to solve, then it's knotty.

If it has resisted attempts to solve it in the past, it is obdurate or refractory.

If it is causing irritation in those who attempt to solve it, it's frustrating; if it causes confusion, it's baffling.

There are dozens of others.


If it weakens you, it's debilitating; if it permanently damages your ability to function, it's crippling.

If it destroys structures, it's devastating; if it drains you financially, it's ruinous.

If it's difficult to detect, it's insidious; if the problem is so great, it exceeds your ability to deal with it, it's overwhelming.

If the damage is widespread and severe, it's disastrous; if it's also sudden, it's catastrophic.

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  • Thank you, that's extremely helpful, especially with the words put in their appropriate context. - As you say there are dozens of others, would you like to add another 5 or 10 that come to your mind first? – Christian Geiselmann May 23 '17 at 8:11
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    @ChristianGeiselmann -- see edit – Malvolio May 23 '17 at 8:48

In the healthcare sector, this problem is particularly prevalent

prevalent - widespread or current, superior in force or power; predominant.

Examples from the web:

1. "...diseases which were prevalent, at different periods of the year, in each division of the army"

2. "... it became prevalent to such a degree that the trees were covered by it"

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Given your sentence, I would suggest the word "pronounced". This would ALSO let you remove the word "particularly" for most cases.

In the healthcare sector, this problem is ~pronounced~.

Rather than a word of "magnitude" alone it suggests a "noteworthiness"

pronounced from Oxford Living Dictionaries ADJECTIVE

Very noticeable or marked; conspicuous.

‘he had a pronounced squint’

‘The new field of imagery may not provoke the passions of an image war, but we are often troubled by a pronounced need to know.’

Synonyms: noticeable, marked, strong, conspicuous, striking, distinct, decided, definite, prominent, notable, unmistakable, inescapable, obvious, evident, plain, clear, recognizable, identifiable

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  • Very helpful, thank you, including for the list of synonyms, which gives me some more ideas. – Christian Geiselmann May 22 '17 at 0:13

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