Although dictionary says 'massive' only means 'heavy', I am always having the impression that in some contexts 'massive X' means 'large number of X'. Is my impression purely wrong or there are idiomatic usages like that? If there is, what is the usage? Does the phrase 'massive failures' mean 'severe failures' or 'many many failures'?

  • 1
    @ NS.X.: It may be that in your native language, you associate the word massive with terms that can suggest both many and much. In English, lots of can apply in both contexts, but massive only ever alludes to size, not quantity. May 9, 2013 at 23:03

4 Answers 4


Massive literally means "having much mass" (aka very heavy). Figuratively, it is often used to mean "large."

You could never say something like "There are massive people there." (Actually, you could, but that means that there are a couple of really heavy people there; it would not mean that there are many people there.)

The phrase "massive failures" means "severe failures" as you said.

  • Although, you can use a massive amount to mean a large number as in "There's a massive amount of people there."
    – Hellion
    May 9, 2013 at 20:51
  • @Hellion, Yeah I think that's an extension of using massive to mean "large"
    – Daniel
    May 9, 2013 at 20:57
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    @Hellion Although, I would probably say "There's a massive number of people," not, "There's a massive amount of people." People are countable.
    – Daniel
    May 9, 2013 at 20:58
  • Is it the same for huge? May 9, 2013 at 21:19
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    @PersianCat, "Huge" means roughly the same as "massive."
    – Daniel
    May 9, 2013 at 21:20

In the American English usage that I am familiar with, when you are using "massive" with a singular noun or a plural, it will always mean "large" or "heavy". For example,

Massive cat (Large or heavy cat)

Massive cats (Multiple cats, and each individual cat is large or heavy)

However, if the noun is a singular noun that refers to a group, then it can mean "a large number". For example,

Massive fleet (A fleet with a large number of ships)

Massive crowd (A crowd with a large number of people)

In a way, this can relate back to the original meaning. To make a fleet larger or heavier, you add more ships. To make a crowd larger or heavier, you add more people.


Here's a phrase where massive describes a large number:

massive nuclear arsenal

  • Please use the Post answer button only for actual answers. This reads more like a comment. See How to Answer for more info, and please expand your answer by editing it.
    – M.A.R.
    Sep 29, 2015 at 19:46

Massive means:

  • Very large, heavy and solid
  • Extremely large or serious

With the last meaning, it can be used in phrases like "a massive increase in spending."

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