Vast, spotless and awesome (Extreme adjectives, Part 2)

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by Kate Woodford

Earlier this month, we published a post on extreme adjectives used to describe the weather and emotions. (Extreme adjectives are adjectives that we use when we want to really emphasize a particular quality.)  This week, we’re focusing on adjectives that emphasize a high degree of other qualities, for example, size and age.

Let’s start with size. Lots of adjectives mean ‘extremely large in size or amount’. Among the most common are enormous, massive, huge, gigantic, vast and giant: an enormous crocodile / a massive house / a huge sum of money / a gigantic wave / a vast expanse / a giant statue

Conversely, something that is extremely small in size or amount might be described as tiny or minute. (The adjective ‘minute’ is pronounced UK maɪˈnjuːt, US maɪˈnuːt): the baby’s tiny feet / minute quantities of the substance

There are plenty of adjectives meaning ‘extremely good’. Among the most common are amazing, awesome, brilliant, fantastic, great, marvellous and wonderful: That’s fantastic news! / a wonderful film. Note that these are all rather informal and not generally used in formal writing where adjectives with this meaning, such as excellent, exceptional, outstanding and superb, are more common.

Of course, there are lots of adjectives meaning ‘extremely bad’ too, for example appalling, atrocious, awful, dreadful, horrendous and terrible: appalling weather / atrocious driving conditions / a terrible film

Staying with opposites, a place or thing that is extremely clean may be described as spotless or immaculate while somewhere or something that is extremely dirty is filthy or squalid: His kitchen is absolutely spotless. / an immaculate white suit / Wash your hands – they’re filthy! / Conditions in the prison were squalid.

‘Extremely silly’ has some useful synonyms, for example absurd, ludicrous and ridiculous: It’s a ridiculous thing to say. / an absurd idea / a ludicrous suggestion

Something that is extremely interesting is often described as fascinating: a fascinating documentary.

If something is very old, you might describe it informally as ancient: She insists on using this ancient laptop.

A film, person, situation, etc. that is very funny is hilarious: Annie doesn’t think he’s at all funny but I find him hilarious.

A building, piece of clothing, etc. that is extremely ugly may be described as hideous: those hideous new apartment blocks by the river

If you are extremely tired, you are exhausted: The journey had left them exhausted.

Someone who is extremely hungry might say they are ravenous or (informal) starving: Is there any dinner? I’m starving!

Finally, something that is extremely noisy is sometimes described as deafening: The music was deafening.


24 thoughts on “Vast, spotless and awesome (Extreme adjectives, Part 2)

  1. Maryem Salama

    I have been ravenous for ages to your great blogs, If not in your invaluable post, where I can learn many in a minute? Thank you my dear Kate. I hope my use of this word in this context is correct, for I am not sure.

  2. Beni Amin

    Hi Kate,

    This is really a awesome blog for those who want to enrich their English word bank.So much new words in a single post!I am requesting you to make one post about human virtues( like love, compassion,hatred etc).

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi Beni! Thank you so much. Yes, I’ll have a think about that topic and see if I can come up with something. Thank you – I love suggestions!

  3. Thanks a million for your sharing, extremely grateful. May I have the link for (Extreme adjectives, part 1) ? I think I have missed it 😀

    1. Kate Woodford

      Yes, Leah, absolutely! I didn’t include it because it’s quite formal and not so frequent (and I have to draw the line somewhere), but it’s a great word!

  4. Elena

    Hello Kate, Thanks a lot for this useful article!
    In English textbooks one can find information about adverbs to be used with extreme adjectives. But sometimes the rules are confusing. For instance, I’ve read that we don’t normally use “extremely” with extreme adjectives, but in another book there was a phrase “extremely delicious”. Could you comment on this, please? Your explanation about the adverbs to go with extreme adjectives would be very much appreciated!

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi Elena! You raise an interesting point. It’s true that we don’t usually qualify non-gradable or extreme adjectives with adverbs such as ‘very’, ‘extremely’ etc. It’s safe to stick to this rule, if you want your English to be absolutely correct. You do, however, hear this rule being broken, (especially in speech), with phrases such as ‘very delicious’. Also note that the adverbs ‘pretty’ and ‘really’ are also used both with extreme and non-extreme adjectives. I hope that helps!

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