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So if a German would usually interpret "gross" as "tall" in a sentence like this, how would a German say, "The boy is big"?
Well, what would you mean by "big" if not tall? Fat? Then dick. Muscular? Then kräftig. German likes to be specific. If you want to say that he is "just big" without then you'd probably need to explain yourself a little: Der Junge ist einfach groß. Also groß, ja, aber auch kräftig und vielleicht etwas dick. Auf jeden Fall ist sein Gewicht seiner Größe gemäß.
When describing people, "groß" exclusively means "tall", i.e. it refers to their height.
If you want to say that a person is big, you need to choose a different word such as "dick" (fat), "fett" (fat [more offensive than "dick]), "pummelig" (chubby), "stämmig" (stocky), "füllig" (portly) or "korpulent" (corpulent).
Also, you can't use "lang" or "hoch" to describe people.