Arms (top) and feet are types of extremities (sense 3)

From Middle English extremite, from Old French extremité, from Latin extrēmitās (extremity; border, perimeter; ending), from extremīs (furthest, extreme) + -itās (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *-teh₂ts (suffix forming nouns indicating a state of being); see extreme. Extremīs is derived from exter (external, outward) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₁eǵʰs (out)) + -issimus (suffix indicating a superlative) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *-is- (suffix indicating a comparative) + *-(t)m̥mo- (suffix indicating the absolutive case)).





extremity (countable and uncountable, plural extremities or (obsolete) extremitys)

  1. The most extreme or furthest point of something. [from c. 1400]
    Synonym: tip
    • 1576, George Whetstone, “The Castle of Delight: []”, in The Rocke of Regard, [], London: [] [H. Middleton] for Robert Waley, →OCLC; republished in J[ohn] P[ayne] Collier, editor, The Rocke of Regard, [] (Illustrations of Early English Poetry; vol. 2, no. 2), London: Privately printed, [1867?], →OCLC, pages 55–56:
      [B]eſtowe your love on him, who, were it not to do you ſervice, would through the extremitie of love rather wiſh to die then live.
    • 1780, J[ohn] Robertson, William Wales, “Section II. Of Terrestrial Astronomy.”, in The Elements of Navigation; Containing the Theory and Practice. With the Necessary Tables, and Compendiums for Finding the Latitude and Longitude at Sea. To which is Added, a Treatise of Marine Fortification. Composed for the Use of the Royal Mathematical School at Christ’s Hospital, the Royal Academy at Portsmouth, and the Gentlemen of the Navy. In Two Volumes, 4th edition, London: Printed for J[ohn] Nourse, bookseller to His Majesty, →OCLC, book V (Of Astronomy), paragraph 52, page 206:
      Any ſphere revolving as on an axis, muſt have two points on its ſurface at the extremities of its axis, that do not revolve at all; theſe points, with reſpect to the Earth, are called its poles.
    • 1843 December 19, Charles Dickens, “Stave I. Marley’s Ghost.”, in A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, London: Chapman & Hall, [], →OCLC, page 10:
      Scrooge said that he would see him—yes, indeed he did. He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he would see him in that extremity [i.e., hell] first.
    • 1944 November and December, “What's in a Name?”, in Railway Magazine, page 333:
      Reference was made in the January-February issue to some of the optimistic railway titles of the past, such as the Manchester & Milford, and the Lancashire, Derbyshire & East Coast, neither of which got anywhere near the extremities indicated in their titles during their independent existence.
    • 2022 November 30, Paul Bigland, “Destination Oban: a Sunday in Scotland”, in RAIL, number 971, page 79:
      Sitting on the dockside at Oban, watching the to-ing and fro-ing in the harbour on a perfect summer's eve, I reflect on a trip which has taken me through our busiest cities to traverse the country's main lines, as well as explore some of the furthest extremities that were literally out on a limb.
  2. An extreme measure.
    • 1704, [Thomas Goodwin the younger], The History of the Reign of Henry the Fifth, King of England, &c. In Nine Books, London: Printed by J. D. for S. and J. Sprint, J. Robinson, J. Taylor, Andr[ew] Bell, T. Ballard, and B. Lintott, →OCLC, book V, page 191:
      The Fort on the Mount St. Catherine after a Month's Siege was reduc'd to ſuch Extremitys, that they who defended it were forc'd to treat about a Surrender: and Aug. 29. 'twas agreed between the Engliſh Commiſſioners, Edward Earl of Mortaigne, Thomas Earl of Salisbury, and Fitz-Hugh, and the French Commiſſioners, the Sieur Nobles Lieutenant of Guy de Bouteil, which the Sieurs De Buſſon and de Graville, in the Name of the Gariſon, that they would deliver up the Abby and Fortreſs of St. Catherine on the Thurſday following, on condition of having only their Lives ſpar'd.
    • 1726 October 28, [Jonathan Swift], “A Phænomenon Solved by Modern Philosophy and Astronomy. []”, in Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. [] [Gulliver’s Travels], volume II, London: [] Benj[amin] Motte, [], →OCLC, part III (A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Glubbdubdribb, Luggnagg, and Japan), page 45:
      But if they ſtill continue obſtinate, or offer to raiſe Inſurrections, he proceeds to the laſt Remedy, by letting the Iſland drop directly upon their Heads, which makes a universal Deſtruction both of Houſes and Men. However, this is an Extremity to which the Prince is ſeldom driven, neither indeed is he willing to put it in execution, nor dare his Miniſters adviſe him to an Action, which, as it would render them odious to the People, ſo it would be a great damage to their own Eſtates, which lie all below, for the Iſland is the King's Demeſn.
  3. A hand or foot. [from early 15th c.]
    Guillain–Barré syndrome causes one to not be able to move one’s extremities.
    • 1862, Stephen Smith, “On Resections”, in Hand-book of Surgical Operations, 3rd edition, New York, N.Y.: Baillière Brothers, 440 Broadway, →OCLC, page 179:
      Resection is preferable to amputation in the greater number of lesions of the upper extremities, as the principal function is that of mobility.—Sedillot. [] Resection of the phalanges, in whole or part, is occasionally required as the result of deep-seated inflammation.
  4. A limb (major appendage of a human or animal such as an arm, leg, or wing). [from early 15th c.]
    Synonyms: appendage, limb
    • 1878, D[avid] Hayes Agnew, “Wounds of the Extremities”, in The Principles and Practice of Surgery, being a Treatise on Surgical Diseases and Injuries, volume I, Philadelphia, Pa., London: J. B. Lippincott & Co., →OCLC, page 381:
      The danger of wounds of the extremities consists in the injury done to the blood-vessels, nerves, articulations, and bones.
    • 1898, A. P. Hill, “Medical Receipts”, in Mrs. Hill’s New Cook-book; or, Housekeeping Made Easy. A Practical System for Private Families, in Town and Country Especially Adapted to the Southern States. With Directions for Carving and Arranging the Table for Dinners, Parties, etc. Together with Many Medical and Miscellaneous Receipts Extremely Useful in Families, new and enlarged edition, New York, N.Y.: G. W. Dilingham Co., publishers, →OCLC, paragraph 986, page 376:
      Congestive Chills.—Give from ten to fifteen drops of spirits of turpentine in a wineglass of toddy. Make a liniment of equal parts of turpentine and camphor. With this rub the spine, chest and extremities well; but not enough to blister. Rub the extremities until reaction takes place. A cloth saturated with the mixture should be applied to the chest.
    • 2014, Devin Brown, “Sleep Apnea in the Acute Stroke Setting”, in Ronald D. Chervin, editor, Common Pitfalls in Sleep Medicine: Case-based Learning, Cambridge, New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press, →ISBN, page 267, column 1:
      On motor examination, she had normal bulk and tone throughout the upper and lower extremities. Her upper extremity strength appeared symmetric bilaterally and no drift in the left upper extremity was found. In the lower extremities, she had full strength in the right leg. In the left leg, there was some subtle weakness of left hip flexion, with 5/5 strength distally.

Derived terms




Further reading