Vast, mahoosive and monstrous (Words meaning ‘very large’)

Listen to the author reading this blog post:

photo edit of a girl looking upwards in amazement as she is handed an unrealistically large ice cream cone, taller than she is - illustrating the concept of words meaning very large
Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images

by Kate Woodford

Today I’m looking at words that mean ‘very or extremely large’. You’ll already know several words in this area – adjectives such as enormous, huge and massive – so I won’t focus on those. Instead, I’ll look at a set of adjectives that you might not know. Most have rather similar meanings. The differences are mainly found in the register of the words, that is, whether they are formal or informal.

Two nice adjectives meaning ‘extremely large’ that are slightly formal in tone are immense and vast:

We flew over an immense forest. / We have an immense task on our hands.  

Incredibly, these tiny birds travel vast distances to get here. / This is a vast improvement on the previous version.

Other even more emphatic adjectives meaning ‘extremely large’ are colossal, gargantuan, giantgigantic, and monstrous. (The adjective ‘monstrous’ has rather negative connotations and often describes extremely large things that are in some way unpleasant or frightening):

How on earth did they build these colossal statues all that time ago?

Nothing would satisfy his gargantuan appetite for power.

The performance will be broadcast live on a giant screen.

They’ve painted a gigantic mural on the side of the wall.

Left alone, these fish can grow to monstrous proportions.

In conversation, we often use the phrase ‘great big‘ before a noun:

I saw her walking a great big dog last week. / They got home to find that a great big hole had opened up in their driveway.

There are some informal and slightly humorous adjectives meaning ‘extremely large’, for example the word (UK) humungous / (US) humongous and the adjectives whopping and walloping (in UK English also ‘whopping great’ and ‘walloping great’):

I’m afraid I have a humungous pile of laundry to do.

They only charge five pounds for a whopping slice of pizza. / I don’t know what he’d done but he had a whopping great bruise on his arm.

You’ve cut me a walloping great piece of cake there!

Interestingly, there are two informal portmanteau words (words formed by combining other words) for ‘very large’. There’s the adjective ginormous, which is a combination of ‘gigantic’ and ‘enormous’ and, in UK English, mahoosive, which is thought to be a blend of ‘massive’ and a different spelling of the letters ‘hu’ in huge:

The café is famous for its ginormous portions.

We had a mahoosive party for her.

That concludes my round-up of words for ‘very large’. I hope you’ve learned one or two useful adjectives.

10 thoughts on “Vast, mahoosive and monstrous (Words meaning ‘very large’)

    1. Ghazzal

      What an excellent method of teaching new less common words , I have taken an opportunity to learn such viable words.

Leave a Reply