α. ME nobre (transmission error), ME noimbre, ME nombir, ME nombyre, ME nommbyre, ME nonbir, ME nonbr (transmission error), ME noubre (transmission error), ME noumbir, ME noumbur, ME nounbir, ME nounbre, ME nounbur, ME novmbre, ME nowmber, ME nowmbre, ME nowmbur, ME nowmbyre, ME nownbere, ME numbere, ME numbir, ME numbur, ME numbyr, ME nunbyr, ME–15 nombar, ME–15 nombre, ME–15 nombyr, ME–15 noumber, ME–15 noumbre, ME–15 numbre, ME–15 (17 English regional) nombur, ME–16 nomber, ME– number, 15 noombre, 15 noumar, 18 numbeh (U.S. regional); Scottish pre-17 nimber, pre-17 nombeir, pre-17 nomber, pre-17 nombir, pre-17 nombre, pre-17 nomebar, pre-17 nomeber, pre-17 nommber, pre-17 noumber, pre-17 noumbre, pre-17 nowmber, pre-17 nowmbyre, pre-17 numbir, pre-17 numbre, pre-17 numbrie, pre-17 numbyr, pre-17 nummber, pre-17 nwmber, pre-17 17– number.
β. lME nommer (chiefly northern), lME noumer (chiefly northern), lME nowmer (chiefly northern), lME nowmyr (chiefly northern), lME nummer (chiefly northern), lME–15 nowmere (chiefly northern), lME–15 nowmmer (chiefly northern); Scottish pre-17 newmer, pre-17 nomare, pre-17 nomer, pre-17 nomere, pre-17 nomir, pre-17 nommer, pre-17 nomor, pre-17 nomyr, pre-17 noumer, pre-17 nouwmyr, pre-17 novmer, pre-17 novmere, pre-17 novmyr, pre-17 nowmer, pre-17 nowmere, pre-17 nowmir, pre-17 nowmyr, pre-17 nowmyre, pre-17 numeir, pre-17 numere, pre-17 numir, pre-17 nummeir, pre-17 nummir, pre-17 nummyr, pre-17 nvmer, pre-17 nwmer, pre-17 nwmyr, pre-17 18 numer, pre-17 18– nummer. (Show Less)
Origin: A borrowing from French. Etymons: French nombre, numbre.
< Anglo-Norman nombre
and Old French, Middle French nombre
sum, total (early 12th cent. as numbre
), grammatical number (13th cent.), a (large, small) quantity (14th cent.), conformity in verse to a regular measure (1549) < classical Latin numerus
sum, total, numeral, number as indicating a part or position in a series, a (large, small) quantity, a (large or small) group or collection of persons or things, a class or category, number as an abstract concept, the fact of being numerous, numerical calculation, arithmetic, rhythm in words or music, grammatical number, metrical foot, (plural) metrical lines, musical strains, perhaps < a suffixed ablaut variant of the same Indo-European base as ancient Greek νόμος
(see ). Compare Middle Dutch nomber
, (archaic) nommer
), German Nummer
(16th cent.), Norwegian nummer
, Swedish nummer
, Danish nummer
. Compare ,
compare Old French Nombres
(13th cent.), Anglo-Norman and Old French Livre des nombres
(13th cent.), reflecting post-classical Latin Numeri
and Libri numerorum
(both Vulgate) respectively; the book was so called because it relates the census of the twelve tribes of Israel; compare
With senses , , and , compare Webster's Dict. Eng. Usage
(1989) 673/2 which notes that a number
is usually used with a plural verb and the number
is usually used with a singular verb. When the word is preceded by an adjective, the verb is more frequently given as plural.
In senses relating to the result of enumeration, to quantity, etc.
b. In plural in same sense. Cf. sense .
1591 W. Garrard & R. Hitchcock 224
So that helping your memorie with certain Tablei or Tariffas made of purpose to know the numbers of the souldiers that are to enter into ranke.
1600 W. Shakespeare iv. i. 4
Send discouerers forth, To know the numbers of our enemies.
1613 in J. R. N. Macphail
Wherby the noumbers of men of warre..is particularlie sett downe.
a1719 J. Addison
There is but one gate for strangers to enter at, that it may be known what numbers of them are in the town.
1815 M. Elphinstone iii. iv. 398
Their numbers are not less than thirty thousand families.
1874 A. Trollope I. xvi. 129
The men may beat the women in numbers by ten to one.
1986 May 54/2
Greylag numbers were very low during March but pinkfeet more than made up for this with a count of 15,000 plus.
1996 30 Aug. 3/3
Numbers were low this year, and this was never more apparent than at the mainstage gigs.
b. An abstract entity representing a quantity, used to express how many things are being referred to, or how much there is of some thing or property; an arithmetical value corresponding to a particular quantity of something. Also: an analogous entity or value used in mathematical operations without reference to actual things.In quot. : a ratio, a proportion. See also sense .atomic, Avogadro's, complex, quantum, whole number, etc.: see the first element.
St. Augustine 88 in C. Horstmann
Of þe mesures of figures and musek And of alle þe noumbres ek..He vndersted.
a1398 J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus
Þe secounde odde noumbre [L. numerus impar], þat is, þe nombre of fyue.
Þat suld be of a numbre hale, and mani thusand to haue in tale.
Parfite noumbre it is none Off elleuen.
a1500 in W. A. Pantin
I. 17 (MED)
There ys a Numbyr that ys called a Grose, and itt cont[aineth] xij doss[en].
Usk's Test. Loue in i. f. cccxxxiiii
It is a fayre lykenesse, a pees or one grayne of wheate, to a thousande shippes ful of corne charged. What nombre is betwene the one and thother.
1570 H. Billingsley tr. Euclid vii. f. 186
When two numbers multiplying them selues..produce an other: the number produced is called a plaine or superficiall number.
1602 W. Shakespeare v. i. 2
They say there is good luck in old numbers.
1608 D. Tuvill f. 46
Themselues alone will be thought the Numbers, that giue a substantiall existence to the being of them all.
1667 J. Milton viii. 114
Distance inexpressible By Numbers that have name.
1753 Suppl. App. (at cited word)
The figurate Numbers of any order may be found without computing those of the preceding orders.
1820 P. B. Shelley i. 14
If you were to dream Of a particular number in the Lottery, You would not buy the ticket?
1859 B. Smith
A Mixed Number is composed of a whole number and a fraction.
1935 35 342
The cetane number..is determined and expressed..as the percentage of cetane in a blend of cetane and alphamethylnaphthalene.
1981 P. Davies
It has been known since the time of Pythagoras that there exist numbers that cannot be expressed as either a whole number or as a fraction.
1990 32 285
We shall therefore call an even number a Goldbach number if it can be written as the sum of two primes in at least one way.
(a) In plural. Arithmetic; †an arithmetic calculation (obsolete);
(b) in singular (elementary) arithmetic, esp. as taught as a school subject (originally Australian and New Zealand, now also British).The modern use of the singular, referring esp. to primary school arithmetic, may have been influenced by the title of the textbook referred to in quot. .
a1398 J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus
Among þe science mathematicus, wise men schal most take heede of þe science of nombres.
B. xix. 234 (MED)
He tauȝte..some to dyuyne and diuide, noumbres to kenne.
G. Chaucer Prol. 3
I aperceyve wel by certeyne evydences thyn abilite to lerne sciences touching nombres and proporciouns.
Apuleyus and Boece..were the furst in latyne and in grew, That in to the craft on nombre euer drew.
1693 S. Pepys 22 Nov.
The late project..has almost extinguished..at all places of public conversation in this town, especially among men of numbers, every other talk.
1711 R. Steele No. 174. ⁋5
None of all these Things could be done by him without the Exercise of his Skill in Numbers.
1791 J. Boswell anno 1776 II. 21
[Johnson:] We may instance the science of numbers, which all minds are equally capable of attaining.
1848 E. C. Gaskell I. viii. 128
I've gotten no head for numbers.
1872 H. W. Longfellow IV. 202
Thus he grew up,..Perfect in Grammar, and in Rhetoric nice; Science of Numbers, Geometric art, And lore of Stars, and Music knew by heart.
1922 1 Dec. 137/1
Miss Caldwell has published a book entitled ‘The Simplicity of Number’, a copy of which..can..be obtained from her by teachers.
1963 B. Pearson iv. 63
You'd best make sure of his reading and his number and see if he's good enough for this class.
1996 2 May ii. 16/4
To teach basic language and number.
1997 R. Coles i. iv. 35
Elaine had already told her teacher that she hoped one day to be a stockbroker, like her grandfather: ‘He is a whiz at numbers’—a remark she'd heard her grandmother make all the time.
†d. line of numbers = . Obsolete.
1656 J. Brown
The description and use of the carpenters-rule: together with the use of the line of numbers (inscribed thereon) in arithmatick and geometry. And the application thereof to the measuring of all superficies and solids.
1667 W. Leybourn
The line of proportion or numbers, commonly called Gunters Line, made easie. By the which may be measured all manner of superficies and solids.
Gunter's Line, the common Line of Numbers first invented by Mr. Edmund Gunter, and so well known that it needs no Description.
1728 E. Chambers at Gunter's Line
Call'd also Line of Lines, and Line of Numbers.
The diff. of long. 419 on the line of numbers.
1890 XXXIII. 350
Gunter's admirable rule of proportion, now called the line of numbers (‘Gunter's Line’ and ‘Gunter's Proportion’).
e. In plural. U.S. slang. An illegal form of gambling in which bets are taken on the occurrence of numbers in a lottery or in the financial columns of a newspaper. Esp. in to play the numbers . Cf. .
[1868 J. D. McCabe 514
A man might play three numbers every day for a year, and not have the satisfaction of seeing all three come out at one time on the drawing.]
1897 G. Ade 170
She tell Belle 'at she heah I like gin an' roll'e bones an' play numbehs.
1926 C. Van Vechten 286
Numbers, a gambling game highly popular in contemporary Harlem. The winning numbers each day are derived from the New York Clearing House bank exchanges and balances..published in the newspapers.
1965 ‘Malcolm X’ 52
Betting my dollar a day on the numbers.
1975 29 Sept. 54/3
She had met Delgado while she was selling numbers on the streets of the lower East Side.
1992 D. Pinckney vi. 145
His part-time helper..lost vast sums..playing the numbers.
f. In plural. colloquial. Statistics; (U.S. Sport, esp. Baseball) statistics detailing a player's performance in various aspects of his or her sport.
1964 11 Apr. 20
Such numbers show graphically how evenly playing time has been distributed.
1973 7 Apr. (Suppl.) c/2
There is an old saying that is particularly appropriate: ‘Numbers don't lie’.
1986 R. L. Chapman 298/1
He had 40 homers and a 325 average, the best numbers on the team.
Nance let Klingler's numbers speak for themselves,..pointing out that Klingler's statistics were better than any other Heisman-winning quarterback.
1994 18 Mar. 8/5
According to the numbers, about 60,000 Philadelphians currently receiving welfare payments will have their payments reduced to the 70-cents-a-day level.
b. A number assigned to a particular telephone (or group of telephones) and used in making connections to it; = .
1879 8 Sept. 12/1
The person at No. 2 calls the attention of the attendant at the exchange by means of an electric bell. At the same moment a shutter on the switchboard falls and discloses the number of the applicant.
(London & Globe Telephone Co.)
Take telephones from hooks and speak at once, giving number of subscriber wanted.
1911 W. J. Locke 324
She..took up the telephone and gave a number.
1965 Mrs. L. B. Johnson 3 June
I tried to reach him, or rather his wife, to no avail. The number didn't answer.
1973 ‘R. Lewis’ iv. 47
‘Could it be the number of the hire-car he used?’..‘It's a Leeds number.’
1991 R. Rendell
Only the answering machine replied when he dialled her number.
1923 G. G. Denny i. 31
Yarn count—a number given to yarn indicating its fineness, based upon number of yards per pound, more correctly called ‘yarn number’.
1927 M. H. Avram 516
There are many systems by which the ‘number’, ‘size’, or ‘count’ of yarns is expressed.
1928 V. Hottenroth ix. 160
Before the silk is ready for sale or for treatment in the dye works, it must be sorted according to quality and number (that is, thickness of thread).
1931 D. L. Pellatt xi. 97
For 150-denier yarn..the number has risen from 18 to 21, 24, 27.
1969 W. von Bergen et al.
II. ii. xvi. 1133
Yarn number is defined as the linear density of a textile strand.
†b. Each of a collection of songs or poems. Obsolete.
1842 Feb. 167
We are under no small obligation to Longfellow for embodying so many cheering views of existence in such musical numbers.
1878 R. L. Stevenson 119
There was a number in the hawker's collection called Conscrits Français, which may rank among the most dissuasive war-lyrics on record.
1894 21 Feb. 3/1
There are only 28 numbers in the little book, but none of them is quite insignificant, while many contain really memorable lines and stanzas.
†c. A person designated by a certain number. Obsolete. rare.
1859 F. A. Griffiths
The first seven numbers run up.
c1860 H. Stuart
Order any two numbers to draw it out.
†d. colloquial. A bedroom in a hotel. Obsolete. rare.
1902 Nov. 717/1
The ordinary sojourner, at a strange hotel will..ask to be accommodated with a ‘bed’ that night; the bagman expresses his desire for a ‘number’.
b. Chiefly with modifying word: (a part of) a theatrical or other performance; a routine, a turn.
1908 K. McGaffey ii. 30
I've got to roll my hoop and do a shopping number.
1939 J. B. Priestley 67
And now, friends, a new novelty act, the first time here, and I know it will be a socko number.
1958 B. Nichols 141
Those most precious of all items to the revue writer, the ‘front-cloth numbers’, which can be played without props or scenery.
1977 17 Oct. 40
I did a bag-lady number on one of the platforms here in the bus station last year, and I almost got arrested. They thought I was the real thing.
. A person or thing.
b. A person, esp. a girl or young woman. Frequently with modifying word. Also: spec. a sexual partner.
1919 5 70
Hot one, hot number, used as a term of disgust. ‘You're a hot one I must say.’ New Mexico.
1936 L. C. Douglas xvi. 343
She's an odd number... I rather fancy she wears a hair shirt herself.
1955 W. Gaddis ii. vii. 627
Have you seen a little blond number named Adeline?
1968 J. Sangster ii. 17
I make do with three [men]..my home number is just a nice guy who sells motor cars.
1973 55 58
Number, casual pick-up from a bar or the street.
1994 17 Feb. 18/2
They are bad numbers who brutally slaughtered a young woman and a young man in a robbery.
c. A job, assignment, or activity. Frequently in cushy number.
1928 G. Campbell xii. 226
It may appear that the men in the boats had a fairly ‘quiet’ number, after they had merely run the risk of being torpedoed.
1959 24 July 5/1
A navigator's yeoman who had the cushy number of rubbing out old minefields and putting in new ones.
1975 J. Wainwright 187
He silently congratulated himself. It was a soft number, sitting here.
2000 13 Mar. 11/1
The Caribbean posting is not a cushy number.
d. slang (originally and chiefly U.S.). A marijuana cigarette; an amount of marijuana obtained from a dealer.
1963 in E. L. Abel (at cited word)
You smoke this number while I go and call John.
1965 W. King in Aug. 22
‘Mac's copping me a number from hell for a nickel!’.. ‘Sweet Mac was supposed to cop me a bag three nights back... I'm waiting here tonight to get my bag of reefer.’
1981 R. Carver Cathedral in C. M. Curtis
I passed her the number. She took it and inhaled and then passed it back to me.
1995 27 Apr. 22/7
After a few tokes of Aunt Mary, maths would be a bust with kids who think a number is something you roll.
Senses relating to the aggregate of things enumerated or collected together.
b. A particular body or company of persons or things. Now only in constructions denoting inclusion, as of (also in, etc.) the number (of) .
(BL Add. 17376)
in K. D. Bülbring
Þe praiseable numbre of prophetes herieþ þe.
c1390 G. Chaucer 2710
I am nat of the nombre of right parfite men.
He has us in his numbur tald, Als his scepe of his aun fald.
He..hase vochyd safe to cownte vs in þe nummer of hys sons.
1485 W. Caxton in Pref. sig. ij
Admytted..in to the nombre of the ix beste & worthy, of whome was fyrst the noble Arthur.
a1500 tr. A. Chartier
He was betin with roddis and aftir that put to the fotemen as oon of their numbur.
a1538 A. Abell Roit or Quheill of Tyme f. 51, in at Noumer
Sum puttis him nocht in nowmir of papis.
?a1562 G. Cavendish
The kyng..hauyng abought his person..beside the wonderfull nomber of nobyll men & gentilmen iijre great Gardes.
1611 2 Cor. x. 12
For we dare not make our selues of the number .
c1626 H. Bisset
The lordis appovntis uthir foure of there numer to succeid..quhill the course cum about the [haill] numer.
1667 J. Milton v. 843
But more illustrious made, since he the Head One of our number thus reduc't becomes.
1754 Earl of Chatham
Is gratitude in the number of a man's virtues?
1785 T. Jefferson Let. 1 Sept. in
The Emperior continues to give proofs of his desire..of receiving us into the number of his tributaries.
1852 W. E. Gladstone 25
They would..rank as enemies of order, and be added to the number of those who are the unfortunate subjects of the return.
1874 A. Trollope II. xxviii. 225
They would have a few friends with them, and Madame Goesler would be one of the number.
1917 E. Wharton xv. 234
She had seen too many village love-stories end in that way. Poor Rose Coles's miserable marriage was of the number.
1961 K. Tynan i. 137
The effect on the prison population of the knowledge that one of their number is about to be ritually strangled.
1986 J. Nagenda ii. iv. 68
Thomas didn't know whether or not Mike was of their number back in Dondo.
†c. The class or category of something. Obsolete.
G. Chaucer tr. Boethius iv. pr. ii. 275
Nys nat yvel of the nombre of thinges that oughten ben desired.
viij sortis of vyndis of the quhilk numir ther is iiij callit vyndis cardinal.
1577 B. Googe tr. C. Heresbach i. f. 35
Columella countes it rather in the number of Fodder for cattell, then of Pulse for man.
1638 R. Baker tr. J. L. G. de Balzac III. 103
I account not Amazons in the number of women, but of Monsters and Prodigies.
1690 W. Temple Ess. Anc. & Mod. Learning in
There are three, which I do not conceive well, how they can be brought into the Number of Sciences; which are, Chymistry, Philology, and Divinity.
1757 A. Cooper iii. lxiv. 261
Universally allowed to be a Mineral Production, of the Number of Bitumens.
†d. Those forming a specified class; the multitude, the public. Obsolete.
1542 Bp. S. Gardiner c1 July
I speake for the numbre, which they them selves will take for no reproche.
1578 J. Banister vii. f. 91v
Casula..the barbarous number, by the addition of one letter pronounce it Capsula.
?1611 G. Chapman tr. Homer ix. 118
Who liuing thus apart Proues vs but number: for his want, makes all our weaknesse seene.
a1616 W. Shakespeare
iii. i. 76
By mingling them with vs, the honor'd Number .
1738 A. Pope 9
The Number may be hang'd, but not be crown'd.
With preceding adjective.
b. As a mass noun. Now only following in (formerly also †to).
Þe golde of þe gazafylace to swyþe gret noumbre.
1411 III. 650/1
The same Robert..dyd assemble greet noumbre of men armed and arrayed ageyn the pees.
In bathe þir citez dwellez Cristen men..in grete noumer [Fr. grant fuisoun].
1485 in J. Raine
Wt othre in grete nombre assembled ther.
a1533 Ld. Berners tr. A. de Guevara
There is greatte nombre of parcialities.
1554 D. Lindsay Dialog Experience & Courteour 5684 in
With small nummer of monkis and freris.
1558 in J. B. Paul
That thai with thair hors, cartis, sleddis and crelis in sic noumer.
1600 R. Kittowe sig. C
His onely sonne, of whom..there should proceed..nations, multiplied in such number, as incomparabilitie shuld equal the innumerable starres.
a1616 W. Shakespeare
iii. iii. 29
Belike you slew great number of his people.
1625 K. Long tr. J. Barclay ii. i. sig. Q
The people, called by a Cryer, came in great number thronging to the Iudgement seate.
1719 J. Barker
II. ii. i. 179
Thus was I, poor Maid, expos'd to..lewd Out-laws, who inhabit those Woods in great Number.
a1822 P. B. Shelley
Rise, like lions after slumber, In unvanquishable number.
1869 J. S. Mill iii
Women cannot be expected to devote themselves to the emancipation of women, until men in considerable number are prepared to join with them.
1906 J. H. Macdonald tr. L. Bianchi iii. xiii. 680
In the typical form [of mania]..neologisms and symbols are found in great number.
1993 Feb. 36/1
I went to the Napoleon Club in Boston's Beacon Hill and stared..at peacock men, gays I'd never seen in such number.
c. With complementary of-phrase unexpressed.
a1470 T. Malory
(Winch. Coll. 13)
The noble knyghtes of the cite cam a greate numbir.
1535 Gen. xxxiv. E
I am but a small nombre: Yf they gather them selues now together against me, they shal slaye me.
1560 J. Daus tr. J. Sleidane f. cxxx
Therfore were bookes brought thether in a wonderfull numbre.
1589 T. Cooper 120
Which dealing..cannot be without great offence of an infinite nomber.
1611 Acts xi. 21
A great number beleeued, and turned vnto the Lord.
A sert nwmber to..revise the cesse book impost.
1724 J. Henley et al. tr. Pliny the Younger I. iv. vii. 164
A great Number think him an Orator.
1833 C. F. Crusé tr. Eusebius
iv. iii. 130
This work is also preserved by a great number.
1861 July 198/3
Only a small number will produce perfect flowers.
1895 Nov. 459
A considerable number are employed in..workshops.
1931 A. U. Dilley iv. 124
Except for a small number woven in medallion pattern upon a plain field, the Feraghans were produced in all-over design.
1961 2 Sept. 506/2
All strains of Staph. aureus were tested for sensitivity..and a small number were phage-typed.
1992 May 2/3
A considerable number could live independently in their own accommodation.
b. With complementary of-phrase unexpressed. Cf. sense .In early use frequently with the sense ‘many people’ (without any contextual indication).
1566 B 10 f. 372
In this mean time there rose a nombre in the Court.
1593 R. Hooker i. i. 48
Much..may seeme to a number perhaps tedious, perhaps obscure.
1637 R. Baillie
A number lope to their friends for recommendations to court.
Was that expression, we will do for the soldiers, uttered by a number or by a few?
1788 A. Hamilton in xv. 93
Regard to reputation has a less active influence, when the infamy of a bad action is to be divided among a number, than when it is to fall singly upon one.
1839 C. Darwin in R. Fitzroy & C. Darwin III. iii. 67
If a hunting party kills an animal, a number [of carrion-feeders] soon collect and patiently await,..on all sides.
1840 J. H. Newman x. 174
The testimony of a number is more cogent than the testimony of two or three.
1910 I. 917/1
A bomb was thrown, several policemen being killed and a number wounded.
1967 113 805/2
What preventive measures can we take? A number are suggested.
1990 Apr. 7/1
This is the first system of its kind to be installed outside the USA, where a number are already installed.
†c. In partitive construction without of. Obsolete. rare.
1583 G. Babington vi. 278
With a number such mockes and diuelish tauntes.
1583 G. Babington vi. 285
Vnto which and a number such other perswasions in the worde the prophane writers..haue agreed.
1598 N. Breton sig. A3
A number plagues the Lord did further threaten.
†d. As a mass noun. Obsolete. rare.
1663 B. Gerbier sig. g2v
Nor is this present Age void of number of Authors, who have written more on Architecture.
1664 B. Gerbier
i. sig. e6
Clovis..did Coat number of Flour-de-lis.
b. Many people or things.
1597 R. Hooker v. lxviii. 185
Whereas none of them which were in the one could perish, numbers in the other are cast away.
1629 in P. H. Brown
2nd Ser. III. 66
Be beggarlie lymmaris of who lykeways nombers lyes between Leith and Edinburgh.
1667 J. Milton xi. 480
A Lazar-house it seemd, wherein were laid Numbers of all diseas'd.
1709 J. Swift 7
They might..be raised to as high a Perfection as Numbers are capable of receiving.
1762 O. Goldsmith II. 44
There are numbers in this city who live by writing new books.
1801 M. Edgeworth Forester in I. 70
Able to speak..before numbers.
1861 F. Metcalfe
Numbers of fish kept rising at my grilse flies.
1866 S. Wilberforce
It was a time when sermons were read by numbers, and admired by multitudes.
1925 L. O'Flaherty
I know numbers of them.
1991 T. Marshall
They are sought after by numbers of wolves.
c. Numerical preponderance; the fact of being numerous. Frequently in force (also weight) of numbers .safety in numbers: see .
1638 T. Herbert
1000 Persians were slaine and 20000 Turks; but by their numbers the Persians were forced to leave the field.
1639 G. Daniel 67
My name preserve By force of Numbers, which revert the Lawes Of Destinie.
1645 J. Winthrop 7
The Narrowgansets and their confederates rest on their numbers, weapons, & opportunityes to do mischief.
1761 C. Churchill 16
Can numbers then change Nature's stated laws? Can numbers make the worse the better cause?
1776 H. H. Brackenridge 43
Our right wing push'd, our left surrounded, Weight of numbers five to one.
1861 F. Metcalfe
Coming to close quarters, they overpowered the foreigners by force of numbers.
1898 May 256
Their one idea was..hooking on with gangways, overpower them by force of numbers.
1910 I. 820/1
His troops were raw and possessed no decisive superiority in numbers.
1941 34 97/2
A series of heavy mass attacks, designed to crush the R.A.F. by sheer weight of numbers and to sweep the skies clear.
The lucky ones..will remain here for the rest of their lives unless driven out by force of numbers.
Senses relating to the action of enumerating.
b. In modern use in form Numbers, with singular agreement. A book of the Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures, which includes an account of a census of the Israelites. In early use also in singular.
Num. Prol. 364
This book clepid Numeri, that is to seie, the book of Noumbre.
Prefatory Epist. St. Jerome in
(New Coll. Oxf.)
The book of Noumbre..wher he conteyne not the mysteries of al the hool crafte..and of the profecie of Balaam, and of the xlij dwellyngis in wildirnesse?
iv. xxi. sig. aa.i
Ye auncyent testament in the .xxv. chapytre of nombres.
1563 2nd Tome Homelyes Idolatry iii, in J. Griffiths
As it is written in the book of Numbers, the twenty-third chapter, that there was no idol in Jacob.
1589 T. Cooper 127
In the Nombers, he that brake the Sabbath day, was stoned to death.
1649 F. Roberts
Numbers,..so called because a great part of the Book, especially at the beginning, is spent in Numbring of the Tribes and Families of Israel.
1728 E. Chambers at Pentateuch
The five books of Moses..; viz. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
1840 XVII. 426/2
The book of Deuteronomy supposes the previous composition of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.
1875 III. 638/1
The Levitico-Elohistic document, which embraces most of the laws in Leviticus with large parts of Exodus and Numbers.
1910 I. 716/2
The rod of Aaron, mentioned in Numbers xvii., was taken from an almond-tree.
1989 R. Alter iv. 118
We get a sense of restitution made in Joshua for the espionage fiasco of Numbers.
1996 16 Feb. 11/4
Setting Numbers against John..invites us to commit the second-century heresy of Marcionism.
Technical senses involving the application of numerical properties.
b. The arithmetic proportion corresponding to a given harmonic interval. Obsolete.
a1387 J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden
(St. John's Cambr.)
III. 205 (MED)
He [sc. Pythagoras] gan to fynde noumbres by þe whiche sownes accordeþ, and so he spedde to make þe craft of musyk.
c1400 J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden
f. 92 (MED)
Whanne þes acordes wer yfounde, Picthagoras ȝaf ham names, & so þat a clepuþ in numbre double, a clepeþ in sounes dyapason, & þat a clepeþ in numbre oþer half, a clepeþ in sounes diapente.
Accordis which in musike be, with theire proporcions cawsen Armonye, Moch like proporcions be in Alchemye, As for the grete nombres actualle.
1579 E. K. in E. Spenser Oct. 27 Gloss.
Plato and Pythagoras, held for opinion, that the mynd was made of a certaine harmonie and musicall nombers.
b. In plural. Musical periods; groups of notes; (gen.) melodies, musical strains. Also in extended use with reference to birdsong, etc. Now poetic.
1595 B. Barnes sig. Cv
Why turne you not your numbers musicall To God aboue mans praise which ruleth all?
a1625 F. Beaumont & J. Fletcher Philaster v. i, in F. Beaumont & J. Fletcher
The god that sings His holy numbers [1620 Number] over marriage beds, Hath knit their noble hearts.
1671 J. Milton iv. 252
The secret power Of harmony in tones and numbers hit By voice or hand.
1693 M. Prior Lady of Quality's playing on Lute in 438
That with Your Numbers you our Zeal might raise.
1702 N. Rowe i. i. sig. C3v
When some skilful Artist strikes the Strings, The magick numbers rouse our sleeping Passions.
1772 W. Jones 138
Now on the flute with equal grace he play'd, And his soft numbers died along the shade.
1810 W. Scott i. 3
Harp of the North! that..down the fitful breeze thy numbers flung.
a1839 W. M. Praed
Pour again those holy numbers, Which thou warblest there alone.
a1861 D. Gray Yellowhammer in
I'll sing to you in numbers high A summer song that shall not die.
1915 J. Rhoades 52
Not too harshly in your ears may sound The sigh-born numbers of an exile's song.
a1945 J. C. Ransom Winter Remembered in
Your improbable tale Is recited in the classic numbers of the nightingale.
†c. Prosody. A metrical subdivision of a line. Obsolete. rare—1.
1797 3 258
Whatever exceeded two times (a short syllable being estimated as half a time) was termed not a foot but a number.
Senses relating to number as an abstract property, faculty, or principle.
a. In phrases denoting that persons, things, etc., have not been, or cannot be, counted. Esp. in without number, (now chiefly South Asian) out of number.
Folc of arabie, So muche þat þer nas non noumbre of hor compainye.
Man and hous þai brent and bredden And her godes oway ledden, Wiþouten no
c1390 G. Chaucer 2579
Ther of folweth another vengeance, peril, and werre, and othere damages with oute nombre.
B. xx. 267
Ȝe [sc. friars] wexeth out of noumbre.
Þis hathill man..sall..out of nounbre to neuyn of nacions wynn.
He lediþ..to helle peple wiþ outun nowmbre.
1483 W. Caxton tr. J. de Voragine 366 b/1
The holy poure ladyes whiche [thou] hast drawen to penaunce without nombre.
1534 R. Whittington tr. Cicero i. sig. D.4*
Marathon, Salamyne, Plate,..& other out of nombre.
1611 Judges vii. 12
Their camels were without number, as the sand by the Sea side for multitude.
1667 J. Milton iii. 346
A shout Loud as from numbers without number.
1697 J. Dryden tr. Virgil Æneis xi, in tr. Virgil 547
The conquer'd Latians..Piles without number for their Dead prepare.
1739 D. Hume II. i. 63
The instances are here without number.
1751 S. Johnson No. 36. ⁋5
The sense of this universal pleasure has invited numbers without number to try their skill in pastoral performances.
1821 J. Bentham 92
Persons out of number are amusing themselves with rendering what, I hope, appears to themselves, at least, good service to the country.
1878 T. Hardy III. vi. iii. 288
The sun was sending up the valley the same long shadow of the housetop that he had seen lying there times out of number.
1892 92 147/1
Times without number the courts in bankruptcy have been called upon to decide the question.
1923 Apr. 400/1
Accidents and delays without number would occur.
1993 U. Chatterjee
To bewail its attrition is the singularity in Shyamanand that his sons, times out of number, have smirked at.
b. in number: in total, in sum; altogether. Formerly also †by number, †of number.
Kene men of armes, twenty hundered & tvo trewli in numbre.
a1382 2 Kings ii. 15
Þanne risen & wentyn twelue bi nowmbre[a1425 L.V. in noumbre; L. numero] of benjamyn.
Tweyne of noumbre is bet than thre In every counsell and secre.
a1450 tr. Guy de Chauliac
Greuaunce of þe yȝe browis..in noumbre ben 15.
St. Barnabas 27 in W. M. Metcalfe
Dyscipilis..þat in nomir war lxx & twa.
a1538 T. Starkey
We schold not only have the pepul incresyd in nombur, but also [etc.].
1573 T. Tusser
These toppingly gests, be in number but ten.
1615 G. Sandys 50
In number about thirtie or fortie thousand.
[Sheep] nyne scoire and fyve in number.
1667 J. Milton vi. 49
Equal in number to that Godless crew.
1749 H. Fielding IV. ix. i. 95
Where the Beauties, more in Number, shine.
1776 P. Schuyler Let. 12 Oct. in J. Judd
This enables me to send you all the batteaux I have here, but they are only ten or eleven in number.
c1790 W. Cowper
(N.Y., Morgan Libr.)
Though the pleasures of London exceed In number the days of the year.
1869 R. H. Dana
San Francisco, with its..thousand-ton clipper ships, more in number than London or Liverpool sheltered that day.
1886 82 94/1
A mortgage of the stock of sheep, about 6500 in number, on an Australian run.
1920 Aug. 21/1
The motifs, four in number, are connected by lines of cording.
1992 Feb. 44/1
About fifty in number, these genes, clustered on chromosome 17 in mice..are known as the major histocompatibility locus.
†c. in number: in numerical place or order. Obsolete.
?a1439 J. Lydgate
ix. 1060 (MED)
Than onto Bochas cam the tuelue in noumbre, Callid Pope Iohn.
St. Matthias 3 in W. M. Metcalfe
Þe apostil sancte mathy, þat In nowmyr þe laste ves, In stad of þe tratour Iudas.
1562 N. Winȝet
Thre Questionis,..quhilkis ar in noumbre the xxxiii. xxxiiii. and xxxv. of The Four Score Thre Questionis.
†d. in number with (also of) : together or along with. Obsolete. rare.
x. l. 180
Off this dispyt amendys I think to haiff, Or de thar-for in nowmyr with the laiff.
Andrew of Wyntoun
That thai mycht In nowmyre of thai xxx feicht.
P2. to (also of, etc.) the number of (a specified number). Formerly also without preposition.
a1387 J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden
(St. John's Cambr.)
I. 341 (MED)
Bartholanus..come þider wiþ his þre sones..and [they] encresede to þe noumbre of nyne þowsand men.
a1393 J. Gower
vii. 1102 (MED)
Libra sit in the nombre of sevene.
Sche sente þe schorte somme of hir sentence..compendiously in þe Nombre of sixe lettirs.
a1470 T. Malory
(Winch. Coll. 13)
Many owchys, isette with stonys and perelys in golde, to the numbir of a thousande.
a1533 Ld. Berners tr.
cii. sig. D*vv
Al thys company were to the numbre of .xv. thousande knightes.
1582 N. Lichefield tr. F. L. de Castanheda i. vii. 18 b
Where also then were in sight the number of twentie Moores skirmishing with their dartes.
1629 in P. H. Brown
2nd Ser. III. 51
Unleveyed..of the nomber of threttie sax.
Every boat comming into the shore..sall exact thereof the number of one hundreth herings.
1699 G. Farquhar iii. 25
There was Mrs. Mary, Mrs. Margaret, Mrs. Lucy, Mrs. Susan, Mrs. Judy, and so forth; to the number of five and twenty, or thereabouts.
1720 D. Defoe 209
Stamford's Regiment was entirely cut in Pieces, and several others, to the Number of about 800 Men.
1775 P. Van Cortlandt Let. 13 Nov. in J. Judd
Tories from the eastward..to the number of two or three hundred.
1852 J. D. Canning 155
The candidates mounted the stump for display; While some Oberlin men, To the number of ten, Bethought it a matter for which they should pray.
1926 W. Lewis vii. v. 203
The groups..are to be counted to the number of four.
1986 B. Lopez vi. 231
There were..mock moons or paraselenae to the number of six.
P3. to make up (the) numbers (also number)
a. To complete a company or quantity, usually of predetermined size.
a1616 W. Shakespeare
iv. ii. 262
The Enemy, marching along by them, By them shall make a fuller number vp .
1623 Bp. J. Hall 45
Like to some vnfaithfull Captaine that hath..filled his purse with dead paies, made vp the number of his companies with borrowed men.
1667 R. Allestree viii. 233
Though it hath too many voluntiers, yet sure 'tis this press that helps to make up its numbers.
1720 A. Pennecuik
A learn'd Clerk, five Tradesmen, and a Swain Call'd Colin, who dwelt in the neighbouring Plain, Made up the Number of Corisca's Train.
1754 S. Fielding & J. Collier i. ix. 159
Two girls and a boy made up the number of this little society.
1850 N. Kingsley 21 Apr.
They drifted once more and made up the number of 51 salmon.
1891 T. Hardy III. xliii. 59
Now you go and lie down there, and Izz and I will make up your number.
1989 C. Hitchens in I. Hamilton
He explains that he and his fellows are one short of a quorum for prayer. Will I make up the number?
2001 J. Robinson iv. 111
A person recruited temporarily..to make up the numbers in a gang.
b. Of a person: to be included in a party merely for convenience of numbers; (hence) to have only nominal importance.
21 Feb. 27
In some faculties standards would drop if less well qualified British students had to be accepted to make up numbers.
1985 L. Griffiths 98
The rest are just making up the numbers.
1996 Sept. 98/2
The White Dwarf is a really hard character and any followers you send with him are just there to make up the numbers.
P4. colloquial. one's number is up and variants
[with reference to the number on a person's lottery ticket, or some other number by which a person may be identified, as an army number]
: one's time (to die, etc.) has come, one is finished or doomed. See also .
1804 C. Lamb Let. 13 Jan. in
Though this is a lottery to which none But G. Burnett would chuse to trust his all, there is no harm just to call in at Despair's office for a friend, and see if his number is come up.
1899 C. Rook iv. 56
You couldn't tallygraft to Billy no more. His number's up awright, wiv no error.
1915 ‘Bartimeus’ i. 11
I think our number's up, old thing.
1937 V. Bartlett xi. 188
The Director-General said that he would nevertheless like me to broadcast a short talk under my own name... My number was up.
1975 J. Aiken xviii. 331
He'd got leukaemia. He knew his number was up.
1989 G. E. Klyve & C. G. Oakley i. 33
Down and down the submarine sank. Danaë truly believed that her number, whichever one it was, was up, and waited tensely for the inrush of water.
P5. slang (originally Military and Navy). to lose the number of one's mess : to die, to be killed. So to settle the number of a person's mess : to cause a person's death. Now archaic and rare.
1807 in A. Paget
If we are going against Copenhagen many of us will lose the number of our mess.
1834 F. Marryat II. xiv. 240
I have an idea that some of us will lose the number of our mess.
1881 J. F. T. Keane 60
Fetching me one on the skull, that would have ‘settled the number of my mess’, but for the thickness of my too attractive head-dress.
1911 C. E. W. Bean xxx. 260
That meant a ride out to the blacks' camp and some of them losing the number of their mess. It did not matter who was shot.
1931 in H. M. Tomlinson 387
It's the like o' them nine inchers can lose ye the number of yer mess, just by the blast of its passing.
P6. Nautical. to make her number :
(a) (of a ship) to communicate by signal the figure by which she is registered; (in later use) (also figurative) to make one's number (colloquial): to report one's arrival, to report for duty, to pay a duty or courtesy call, to make oneself known;
†(b) (of a ship) to obtain a good place on the shipping register (obsolete).
1836 F. Marryat Pirate xvii, in 199
The Enterprise had made her number outside; but that she was becalmed.
1861 J. Lamont xviii. 293
We found that the ‘Anna Louise’ had only made her number twelve hours before us.
1880 14 Apr. 5/5
The good ship had a first-rate captain, a skilled crew, was well found and fitted, and she may ‘make her number’ yet.
1924 G. H. A. Willis 269
We went off to the Duke of Wellington to ‘make our number’ to the commodore's wife.
1927 B. M. Chambers xxx. 256
Almost every ship on her way to and from South America makes her number to the island [sc. Fernando Noronha].
1945 ‘N. Shute’ ix. 211
Captain (D.) was there to see them off; I made my number with him as representing V.A.C.O. and we stood chatting for a time.
1958 M. Dickens xii. 192
Ben saw himself on Speech Day, making his number with mothers in garden-party hats.
1989 27 June 21/8
I was able to make my number at every port we visited.
P7. figurative. to get (also take, etc.) a person's number : to have or make an accurate assessment of a person's true character, motives, weaknesses, etc. Cf. .
1853 C. Dickens lvii. 550
Whenever a person proclaims to you ‘In worldly matters I'm a child,’..that person is only a crying off from being held accountable, and..you have got that person's number, and it's Number One.
1889 ‘M. Twain’ xxxiv. 450
Let him go, for the present: I took his number, so to speak.
1908 9 Aug. s1/1
We have their number now..and they are due for a cleaning.
1920 W. Hard 190
To hurt Bolshevism you need at least to get its number.
1970 G. Jackson Let. 29 May in
Big Brother. He is rather transparent. I have his number.
1990 30 Jan. 19
She soon got the number of the football authorities... They were..forever telling her why something could not be done.
P8. colloquial (originally Military). to have a person's number on it : (of a bullet, shell, etc.) to be destined to strike or kill that person (see quot. ). Also in extended use. Cf. .
1917 A. G. Empey 312
He knows that it is only a matter of minutes before a German shell with his name and number on it will be knocking at his door.
1925 E. Fraser & J. Gibbons 163
Name (or number) on, to have one's, said of a bullet that hit a man; i.e., that it was destined for him.
1965 J. Brophy & E. Partridge 154
Number On, a fatalistic but consolatory superstition insisted that no man need fear any bullet or shell, however close it came, unless it had his regimental number (or his name and number) engraved on it.
1974 ‘C. Fremlin’ 15
I'm as safe here as..any where..if it's got your number on it, you'll get it, no matter where you are!
1992 July 96/3
Somewhere out there is a rocker-recliner with your number on it.
a. North American (originally and chiefly Military). by the numbers
[in humorous reference to the practice of military training (see quot. )]
: with military precision, mechanically, in a routine manner.
c1918 J. F. Trounstine
Give me a kiss by the numbers, I want to do things in a military way.
1921 Nov. 3/1
By the numbers, men, refill the glass on 4.
1946 21 251
In training certain fundamental operations, such as putting on a gas mask, are taught by the numbers—at the count of one, the carrier is unfastened, at the count of two the mask is removed... To do anything ‘by the numbers’ is to do it in a practiced, routine, semi-automatic manner.
1994 S. Matheson ix. 173
I'm not a ‘by the numbers’ pilot—I'm a ‘by the seat of the pants’ pilot.
b. Originally British Military. by numbers: following simple instructions (as if) identified by numbers; (frequently derogatory) performed or accomplished in a mechanical, schematic, or unimaginative manner. Usually as postmodifier forming phrases. See also .
1941 34 73/2
Once we progressed beyond the ‘about turn by numbers’ stage and ventured forth into the field, things began to move.
a1944 N. Coward in B. Day
Let's fly away To where we don't do things by numbers Where no ‘Reveille’ wrecks our slumbers.
1987 D. Coulby & T. Booth 88
Classroom Assistant (Infants)... 9.30: Helped T with house picture (drawing by numbers). 9.45: Help A with colouring of shapes.
1990 T. Brighouse & B. Moon 106
The last thing we want is teaching by numbers, reducing learning to a series of mechanistic measured units.
1995 7 Nov. ii. 14/2
A rare moment of tender loving design amidst a sea of cynical design-by-numbers clothes.
2001 Jan. 96/4
Ferry Corsten has kept his head below the parapet... This, however, is enormo trance-by-numbers.
P10. colloquial. to lose one's number : to make a gaffe, to lose face. rare.
a1936 R. Kipling
He produced a bottle of real Tokay, which I tasted, and lost my number badly by saying that it reminded me of some medicinal wine.
a. U.S. colloquial (originally in African-American usage). to do a number (occasionally to lay a number ): to act with destructive force or impact; to criticize or humiliate; (hence) to have a strong, usually adverse effect. Frequently with on.
1968 H. Lit 12
Do a number, to get mad; make a scene; to tell somebody off; blow your cool.
1972 24 Sept. 93
There were about four or five cats doing a number on (beating hell out of) a Puerto Rican.
1974 Nov. 19
I was on my own among male relatives, male bosses, male lovers who were all, at one time or another, doing numbers on me.
1982 S. Bellow iv. 63
They did a number on Ridpath. They printed damaging statements.
1991 N. Baker vii. 118
When Ada finally did arrive, Updike did such a number on it in his review that he felt compelled to explain..that he writes faster than he reads.
Navigating bumpy dirt tracks and completing hairpin turns often does a number on shocks, tires, belts and other parts.
b. colloquial. to do a —— number and variants: to behave in the specified manner (frequently with the implication of predictable or habitual behaviour).
1968 R. Gover 20
Soon's somebody say boo at 'em [sc. the police], gonna be doin they main number [i.e. shooting at people].
1970 J. Didion ix. 42
We've been through this... We've done this number about fifty times.
1980 R. Rhodes i. ii. 41
She did the garden-club number and the social number and she wasn't interested in his work.
1991 F. Cooper 124
We had this godawful evening... We did this whole fury number: I was pissed as a fart..and I just threw the lot at her.
c. colloquial (chiefly U.S.). to do (also pull, run) a number : to trick or cheat; to deceive. Usually with on.
1971 6 June 95/1
To do a number: To affect someone, with the implication that it's in some devious manner.
1983 E. L. Sturz 9
He's running a number on us!
1992 N. Cohn 77
The numbers we did. The scams we pulled.
1995 5 Mar. 17
Mr Palliser, who has already double-crossed the mystery genre, is now seen to be pulling a number on narrative and interpretation in general.
d. colloquial (chiefly U.S.) to do one's number : to perform one's required or expected role; ‘to do one's stuff’.
(Univ. S. Dakota)
4 iii.–iv. 17
Don't do your number, to desist; (command).]
1978 C. James in 11 June 23/2
I watched a computerised gantry-mill do its complex number with very few human beings present.
1985 11 Nov. 86/2
Lawyers have a vaudeville turn of phrase; they talk about going into court and ‘doing their number’.
1991 14 Feb. 23/1
Then I went to Australia, got off the plane desperately ill and found that the gall bladder had done its number.
With first element in singular form.
(In sense .)
1924 R. M. Ogden tr. K. Koffka v. 334
Many peoples use other number-words [Ger. Zahlwörter] in counting than the ones they use in naming sums.
1937 A. Smeaton tr. R. Carnap v. lxxvii. 297
‘Moon’ is a thing-word..; ‘five’ is not a thing-word, but a number-word.
1991 Aug. 93/3
Such mathematical ideas are set out here in six chapters. They open with number words and symbols.
1911 S. S. Colvin iii. 51
Much of it might function equally well for the reading habit, or the number-work habit.
1962 15 Mar. 469/2
Earlier attempts to teach ‘number work’ are premature and cannot lead beyond the learning of meaningless rules.
1984 V. Day in 19 Apr. 37/1
They are becoming used increasingly..for teaching the first and most basic subjects (numberwork, letter recognition, etc.).
(In sense .)
1897 B. Russell in 6 328
The graduated infinite series of fractions, called the number continuum, has meaning only when applied to a matter divisible ad lib.
1941 38 520
Points may be derived either by some method of abstraction.., or recourse may be had to the number-continuum.
1988 53 922/2
The scale could be interpreted either as a 201-point extended rating scale or as a number continuum.
1890 W. James II. xxviii. 653
Little by little in our minds the number-series is formed.
1953 A. Madwed 320
Numerical analysis by the number series transformation method.
1985 112 667
The population of terminal branches increases in the course of time following the Fibonacci number series.
1924 R. M. Ogden tr. K. Koffka v. 332
Max Wertheimer has investigated the kind of ideas employed by men who do not possess our developed number-system, in tasks where we would use numbers.
1941 G. Birkhoff & S. MacLane i. 9
The integers have one further important property, not characteristically algebraic and not shared by other number systems. This is the well-ordering principle.
1991 Aug. 109/1
The Yuki of California felt that their own number system arose from the nature of the human hand.
(In sense .)
1869 E. Edwards 333
To book-hawking, and especially to the sale of number-books, it [sc. the war] gave an enormous impulse.
1960 G. A. Glaister 278
Number books, books published serially... Each part consisted of two or more sheets stitched together within blue-paper covers.
1963 44 149
But the kind of serialisation..(often called ‘number books’ or ‘subscription books’) was really the issue and sale of a book in separate fascicules..so that the purchaser could..collect the entire work and have it..bound if he so wished.
† number business n. Obsolete
1827 E. Mackenzie II. 729
Mr. M. Brown carried on the number business with great spirit.
† number-carrier n. Obsolete rare
1919 M. Beer I. ii. ii. 108
He was successively a number-carrier, street bookseller, and editor of a democratic periodical.
† number trade n. Obsolete
1864 11 Apr.
Messrs. J. & J. Forsyth..beg to inform Dealers, Canvassers, and all others connected with the ‘Number Trade’, that they [etc.].
number-average n. Chemistry an average of some parameter of the molecules of a mixture calculated as an arithmetic mean with each individual molecule contributing equally, regardless of size; frequently attributive.
1935 39 165
For heterogeneous materials, different methods for determining molecular weights give different ‘average’ values. Thus, it may be shown that freezing point, osmotic pressure, and end-group methods, when applied properly to an ideal mixture, result in an average value defined by the expression Mn = 1/Σ (fi/Mi) where fi is the fractional weight of the constituent of molecular weight Mi in the mixture, and the summation is to be applied to all constituents present. This average may be designated as a ‘number-average molecular weight’.
1955 17 263
Number average degrees of polymerization are used to calculate the rates of initiation and transfer in vinyl polymerizations, and the extent of reaction in polycondensations.
1991 16 115
The number-average molecular weight (Mn) increases in direct proportion to monomer conversion.
number board n. a board on which numbers are displayed.
1857 W. Arthur 182
Close by the number board, he placed another board laden with penny pieces.
1938 G. H. Sewell v. 54
That [sc. numbering each shot] is done by exposing before each shot a Number Board.
1993 23 Aug. ii. 4/4
I found myself transported back to the Hippodromes of my youth with their illuminated number-boards, their bedizened chorines.
number cloth n. Horse Racing the cloth bearing a horse's number in a race.
1924 E. Wallace vi. 131
Catskin was the one horse..that Educated Evans would have recognized without colours and number-cloth.
1975 D. Francis i. 5
People..carrying out saddles and number cloths for the next steeplechase.
number-engaged adj. denoting a sound indicating to a caller that the telephone number dialled is engaged.
1959 H. Hobson xiv. 92
The phone..has been giving the number-engaged signal for over half an hour.
number form n. the shapes into which series of numbers are formed in a person's mental imagery.
1881 F. Galton in 1 June 729
The lowest order of phenomena that admit of being classed as visions, are the ‘Number forms’ to which I have drawn attention on more than one occasion.
1936 6 60
The main object of the investigation..was to find if the presence of number forms is correlated to any significant degree with arithmetical ability.
1963 28 Mar. 547/1
Some people, whenever they think about numbers, picture them in a spatial arrangement... The experiences are called number forms.
number game n. U.S. slang = sense .
1928 10 Nov. 1/2
He and Smith had been partners in the conduct of a lottery known as the ‘number game’.
1930 98 438
The court below committed no error in holding that the ‘number game’..constituted an illegal lottery.
1944 2nd Ser. 50 121
In a prosecution for operating a ‘number game’ as a game of chance for money in violation of ordinance, there must be proof that a number game is such a game or scheme of chance or gambling in absence of statute or ordinance recognizing the number game as being in such classification.
number line n. Mathematics a graduated line representing the ordered set of real numbers (sometimes only the set of integers or natural numbers), used esp. to illustrate simple numerical concepts and operations.
1964 E. J. Swenson v. 99/1
When number lines are introduced to children, they should come in as a representation of a problem situation.
1968 P. J. Murphy & A. F. Kempf ii. 36
Since addition and subtraction are inverse operations, we expect subtraction to be associated with moving to the left on a number line.
1992 M. Field & M. Golubitsky v. 130
The real number line may be viewed as the horizontal x-axis in the complex plane.
†(a) a man who sells weekly or monthly publications (obsolete);
(b) U.S. slang = .
28 Jan. 66/2
Those subscribers..who choose to be accommodated with the Apocrypha may now be supplied by giving orders to the..Number-men.
1866 J. Blackwood Let. 21 Dec. in ‘G. Eliot’
The ‘Number Men’, i.e. men who sell the weekly and monthly publications in large numbers.
1932 23 Nov. 11/3
The number man whose initials are J. K. is due for a big pull-in soon unless he stops putting his clients' dough in his pockets.
1950 H. E. Goldin 146
Number-man, anyone engaged in the policy numbers racket.
number opera n. an opera in which the arias and other sections are clearly separable.
1947 A. Einstein x. 117
Even a musician so retrospective as Louis Spohr could not help abandoning the number-opera towards the end of his career.
1958 24 July 141/3
‘Die Zaubergeige’, for example, is a ‘number opera’ whose folkish tunes stem from popular Bavarian art.
1998 23 Aug. ar27/4
‘The Rake's Progress’ is a sincere homage to the 18th-century ‘number opera’, in which the music unfolds in a numbered series of arias, ensembles and choruses.
number-plate n. a plate bearing a number, or series of numbers; spec. the registration plate of a motor vehicle.
1869 Mar. 170/2
The white porcelain number-plates upon the doors.
1901 Apr. 74/1
We greatly fear that the number-plate is coming.
1973 P. Evans viii. 67
He..scooped up a handful of dirt from the roadside and rubbed it on to the rear number-plate until it became nearly illegible.
The combined cost of delivery and number plates has ranged from nothing..to over £300.
number portability n. Telecommunications a facility which enables customers to transfer from one from one telephone company to another without having to change their telephone number.
4 Apr. 3
Number portability will allow users to choose any exchange for their 800 numbers or retain the ones they have, regardless of the carrier they choose for service.
The introduction of number portability, where customers can keep their old number even if they change networks, has made it easier to swap to the most cost-effective network.
number runner n. U.S. slang = .
1933 10 Apr. 16/2
The Tax Commissioner of the county..has a hand in the prosecution of number runners.
1966 G. Parks xx. 213
I got to know number runners and their hangouts.
1994 P. Baker vi. 74
The number runners, shylocks, pimps, and petty hustlers sought protection from the gangs.
number sign n.
(a) a symbol or character representing a number; a numeral;
(b) the hash sign, #.
1892 5 299
He repeats..much the same process he used in devising four; that is, places an I before the last number-sign (X, or ten) to indicate one less than, next to, or before it; that is, nine.
1951 1 Sept. 14/5
I add the number sign (#) as a special eye-catcher.
1998 D. Bellos et al. tr. G. Ifrah xix. 240/1
In serto, however, as in Nestorian, letters have been used (and still are used) as number signs.
2004 Apr. 14/3
If you send an e-mail using mime and your recipient doesn't use mime, the message may become garbled, turning number signs, quotes and other symbols into gobbledygook.
number-unobtainable adj. denoting a sound indicating to a caller that the telephone number dialled is unobtainable for a reason other than its being engaged.
1969 ‘D. Rutherford’ viii. 148
He listened..to the high whine of the ‘number unobtainable’ signal, knowing that she had left the receiver off.
1984 J. Dunlop & D. G. Smith x. 320
Note that if an unallowed number is dialled, or service to the number dialled has been discontinued, number-unobtainable tone is returned to the caller.
With first element in plural form (chiefly in sense ).
1934 25 Aug. 1/2
Hawkins..identified himself as a ‘pay-off man’ in the ‘numbers business’.
1934 23 Mar. 10/6
The numbers or lottery racket which had its headquarters in Passaic brought its operators $10,000 a week.
1959 28 May 924/2
I wonder how many people now remember that prominent feature of American life in the 'thirties—the numbers racket.
1985 J. Kelman
Got to give your bets to the fucking barber! Numbers racket, said John.
1946 M. Mezzrow & B. Wolfe xii. 226
The professions of..numbers racketeer, day laborer, pimp, stevedore.
1999 26 Sept. 116/5
That sentiment would have been warmly endorsed by the two men whom King killed in his days as a numbers racketeer.
numbers drop n. U.S. rare a session of betting at numbers.
1968 P. Oliver iv. 134
The policy writers and numbers runners who took the bet by a rapid code of signals in the street or at the ‘numbers drop’ would urge them to play other numbers and at higher stakes.
numbers game n.
(a) U.S. slang = sense ;
(b) colloquial the practice of adducing statistics, esp. in support of an argument.
1935 21 Jan. 45/1
In Danville, Va., operators of a ‘numbers’ game were bankrupt.
1961 11 Nov. 365-7
Squabbles over election procedures, the complicated numbers game that East and West played.
1971 A. Hailey xiv. 205
Playing the numbers game—especially in auto plants—is, to Detroiters, as natural as breathing.
1999 F. McCourt l. 443
Her boyfriend, Louis Weber..was famous for running the numbers game in the neighbourhood.
numbers man n.
(a) U.S. slang a person involved in the running of a numbers game;
(b) colloquial a person who is responsible for financial matters, or who is adept with or who lays great emphasis upon figures or statistics.
1964 O. Harrington in J. H. Clarke 90
Nobody covers as much Harlem territory as the numbers man.
1985 T. Ferguson vii. 187
He blackmailed and hijacked and extorted. For years, the police had considered him to be a minor pimp and a numbers man.
1987 R. Hall
Numbers-men from all thirteen parties went mum, eyes darting frantic signals to their minorities to cool it for fear of losing their seats.
1998 C. Barker i. 5
Jefferson the great rationalist, the numbers man, obliged to believe the evidence of his own eyes.
numbers runner n. U.S. slang a person collecting the bets of those playing numbers.
1952 R. Ellison xxiii. 367
And yet, I thought, watching a numbers runner paying off a bet, this is one place that the Brotherhood definitely penetrated.
1979 E. Hardwick iv. 52
Judith has been accused more times than a numbers runner.
2000 3 Apr. 21/1
Jewel-encrusted pinkie rings, once limited to numbers runners and Rat Packers, have been glistening lately on the fashionable fingers of Jennifer Lopez and Lil'Kim.
a. Prefixed to a numeral, as number six, number 42, etc., for the purpose of designating things or persons by the place assigned to them in an arithmetical series. Also as adj. Frequently as postmodifier. Cf. ,
a1393 J. Gower
Of Signes in the nombre ellevene Aquarius hath take his place.]
1691 R. Ames 3
Has any one been here to ask Number Four?
1707 J. Mortimer
Sometimes the best Madder is worth eight or nine Pounds a hundred, and the Number O six Pound Ten Shillings.
1710 J. Swift 15 Sept.
I forgot to mark my two former letters; but I remember this is Number 3.
1837 C. Dickens xxv. 266
I should just like to ask you,..vether you don't con-sider yourself as nice and vell-behaved a young gen'lm'n as ever used..the number four collection?
1867 F. E. Trollope III. 5
It is hard to say..why this especial house should have been Number Nine at all, seeing there were to be but six houses in the row.
1895 W. Carleton 9
Genevieve, how oft it comes to me—That rather young old reading-class, in District Number Three!
1938 S. Beckett v. 95
A staple recreation..had been to wait at Walham Green for a nice number eleven [bus] and take it through the evening rush to Liverpool Street and back.
1977 June 50/2
The beefy Bruce Groves was one of the surprise successes of the season, batting at number three.
1988 Feb. 20/1
All my painting is done with number 3 or 4 sable brushes.
b. Prefixed to a series of numerals in recounting a sequence of arguments, instructions, etc.; number one: firstly, most importantly, for a start.
1871 ‘L. Carroll’ i. 4
I'm going to tell you all your faults. Number one: you squeaked twice when Dinah was washing your face this morning... Number two: you pulled Snowdrop away by the tail.
1984 J. Didion
Don't ask, number one, how Wendell Omura happens to be on Janet's lanai.
1997 ‘Q’ 385
That is real dangerous, because number one, they can build up the children's confidence over time, groom them, number two, the child will never suspect they are in danger.
c. Originally Military. Prefixed to a numeral, as number one, number two, etc., designating progressively longer haircuts.
1925 E. Fraser & J. Gibbons 211
At an inspection, for instance, an officer would tell a man, whose hair seemed too long, to ‘Get a Number One before next Parade’.
1982 N. Knight 20
The hairstyle would be a number two or three crop with feathered fringes all round.
1991 A. Beevor
Number three haircut, standard haircut, as opposed to a Number one, which is shearing ‘right down to the wood’.
number eight n.
(a) Rugby Union the player in the back row of a scrum, behind the lock forwards; this position;
(b) New Zealand standard 4mm gauge wire, originally used in fencing and later for other purposes (often with the implication of inventiveness); frequently attributive, esp. in number eight (fencing) wire ; cf. .
1952 R. K. Stent iii. 30
Originally a centre three-quarter, Pickard went into the scrum (as a number eight).
1960 E. S. Higham & W. J. Higham 154
The Number 8 (back row loose forward)..combines, as far as possible, the duties of second row in the scrum and the flanks outside the scrum.
1973 P. Wilson 27
Then eventually we made barbs for our harpoons, by cutting a length of Number Eight wire from some farm fence.
1992 B. Anderson 33
Squatting on his heels he coiled it and held it up. ‘It's only a bit of old number eight.’
number nine n. Military slang a laxative pill frequently prescribed in the armed forces as a cure-all for minor illnesses or doubtful symptoms.
And should my health appear to fail And appetite grow fine, My doctor hands me—not a bill, But just a Number 9.
1935 G. Blake xi. 339
If that wound's not healed by to-morrow it's M. and D. for you. And a Number Nine.
1946 J. Irving 123
Number-nine Boatswain, the Warrant Wardmaster. As ‘King of the Sick Berth Staff’ this allusion to the No. 9 pill is not inappropriate.
number ten adj. and n.
(a) adj. Military slang (usually in form number ten), (originally in context of the Korean War and, in later use, the Vietnam War) very bad, terrible, rotten;
(b) n. (usually in form Number Ten), Number 10 Downing Street, the official London home of the British Prime Minister; also (by metonymy) denoting the British Prime Minister or the British Government.
1953 in E. Partridge
The various degrees in the state of a soldier's feelings in Korea are seldom expressed in the well-worn favourites of World War II. He is rarely ‘browned off’... No sir. He's just ‘number one’ to ‘number ten’.
1958 L. Durrell iv. 86
Even in the rain there was the usual little cluster of tourists and loungers outside the gates of Number Ten.
1991 7 Dec. 38/1
The impression from Number Ten is that Mr Major had expected that a tough British position would produce..concessions.
1995 G. L. Steinbrook 71
You cheap Charlie, number 10 GI, number 10,000 GI.
number two pencil n. U.S. = .
1977 7 Aug. (Potomac section) 25/1
If you hope to go to college next year, you will have to give up a Saturday morning, take a number two pencil and, with the eraser end, break the seal on the Scholastic Aptitude Test.
1999 10 Aug. 125/1
Everybody has access to a number two pencil, not everyone will be able to use a computer.
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This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, December 2003).
In this entry:
- (also of, etc.) the number of, to
- by number
- by numbers
- by the numbers
- cast number, to
- cushy number
- do (also pull, run) a number, to
- do a number, to
- do a —— number, to
- do one's number, to
- force (also weight) of numbers
- get (also take, etc.) a person's number, to
- have a person's number on it, to
- in number
- in number
- in numbers
- in number with (also of)
- lay a number, to
- line of numbers
- little number
- lose one's number, to
- lose the number of one's mess, to
- make her number, to
- make one's number, to
- make up (the) numbers (also number), to
- number 42
- number board
- number book
- number business
- number cloth
- number continuum
- number eight
- number eight (fencing) wire
- number form
- number game
- number line
- number nine
- number of the beast, the
- number one
- number one
- number opera
- number portability
- number runner
- numbers business
- numbers drop
- number series
- numbers game
- number sign
- number six
- numbers man
- numbers racket
- numbers racketeer
- numbers runner
- number system
- number ten
- number trade
- number two
- number two pencil
- of (also in, etc.) the number (of)
- of number
- one's number is up
- out of number
- play the numbers, to
- quite a number
- settle the number of a person's mess, to
- without number
In other dictionaries:
- My entries(1)
- num, n.1807
- num, int. and v.1899
- Numa, n.1614
- Numb., n.11651
- numb, adj. and n.2a1400
- numb, v.1561
- numbat, n.a1845
- numbed, adj.1553
- numbedness, n.1600
- number, n.c1300
- number, v.c1325
- numberable, adj.a1500
- number-crunch, v.1974
- number cruncher, n.1966
- number crunching, n.1968
- number-crunching, adj.1972
- numbered, adj.1481
- numberer, n.1594
- numberful, adj.1594
- numbering, n.c1325
- numbering, adj.1576
- numberless, adj.1573
- number one, n. and adj.1705
- numberous, adj.1566
- number six, n.1842
- numbersome, adj.a1617
- number-theoretic, adj.1899
- number-theoretical, ...1936
- number theorist, n.1912
- number theory, n.1899
- number two, n.1902
- numbery, adj.1605
- numbfish, n.1711
- numbhead, n.1757
- numbheaded, adj.a1852
- numbing, n.1566
- numbing, adj.1581
- numbingly, adv.1768
- numbles, n.c1330