Definition of number in English:

number

noun

  • 1An arithmetical value, expressed by a word, symbol, or figure, representing a particular quantity and used in counting and making calculations:

    ‘think of a number from one to ten and multiply it by three’
    ‘even numbers’
    • ‘These are combined and shown both in actual numbers and as ratios in the bar graph.’
    • ‘He is perhaps best known for playing a role in the development of the ASCII code for representing English characters as numbers.’
    • ‘We need to think more carefully about numbers and the mathematics we use to work with them.’
    • ‘Hyphenated words, symbols, numbers, and abbreviations were counted as one word.’
    • ‘It made possible the standardization of texts as well as symbols, numbers, and figures.’
    • ‘Note that the allelic state for a pair of lineages is represented by two numbers in brackets.’
    • ‘It is a personal state of being that cannot be reduced to numbers and decimal points.’
    • ‘She said they enjoy coming up with different combinations of numbers.’
    • ‘We also counted the number of words, abbreviations, symbols, numbers, and values in each record.’
    • ‘He considered computation with irrational numbers and polynomials to be part of algebra.’
    • ‘The whole number part starts off your list of numbers for the continued fraction.’
    • ‘According to Bellavitis, the plane does not just provide a means to represent complex numbers.’
    • ‘Vedic scholars did not use figures for big numbers in their numerical notation.’
    • ‘The real number system consists of all numbers that can be represented by infinite decimals.’
    • ‘Is it the numerator of a Bernoullian number, or one occurring in some continued fraction?’
    • ‘A child with a math disability has problems with numbers and math symbols.’
    • ‘For our geometrical problem, g is a positive number so the first value is the one we want.’
    • ‘Finding the ideal ratio of words to numbers may prove a fruitful area for further research.’
    • ‘Book 3 contains a description of how to carry out arithmetic with irrational numbers.’
    • ‘For most purposes this number system could represent all the numbers which might arise in normal day to day life.’
    numeral, integer, figure, digit
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A figure or group of figures used to identify someone or something:
      ‘she picked up the phone and dialled his home number’
      • ‘Soon I had scribbled down phone numbers of five different institutions teaching English in Hong Kong.’
      • ‘At the moment I'm wrestling with huge combinations of ISBN numbers and country codes.’
      • ‘Of course, many of my books are British editions with slightly different page numbers.’
      • ‘In a tense final he was beaten by the championship's number two seed Bobby Brook.’
      • ‘Relieved of the number three slot, Dravid had the occasional opportunity to play finisher.’
      • ‘He will revert to the bench with his number eight slot assumed by skipper Kay.’
      • ‘Number eight seed Guillermo Coria upset Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian to reach the semi-finals.’
      • ‘A minimum of one Lotto ticket serial number is drawn from all valid tickets each Lotto draw.’
      • ‘I can't abide rock, not least because it has 7 different E numbers in it and smells horrible.’
      • ‘I cannot produce statistical data of vehicle numbers and velocities to corroborate these assertions, but I have no doubts.’
      • ‘When travelling to the US, it pays to remember the combination numbers on your suitcase.’
      • ‘At the Munich Lions he wears the number eight jersey.’
      • ‘Her third round opponent is none other than the Belgian number two seed Kim Clijsters.’
      • ‘Why not just send them a phone book of every classified number in Great Britain.’
      • ‘A brief name description and gene ID accession number is given to the right hand side of each ratio.’
      • ‘The club has also issued a hotline number which residents can call if they have any complaints about the event.’
      • ‘If the numbers are different or the label is missing, then the unit has almost certainly been stolen and reprogrammed.’
      • ‘She has helped take George to the number three slot in the UK clothing market.’
      • ‘Greater Manchester Police issued a number for friends or relatives to contact.’
      • ‘Sequences included in this study and their accession numbers are listed in table 1.’
      numeral, figure, integer
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2numbersdated Arithmetic:
      ‘the boy was adept at numbers’
  • 2A quantity or amount:

    ‘the company is seeking to increase the number of women on its staff’
    ‘the exhibition attracted vast numbers of visitors’
    • ‘He said: " I'm alarmed by the growing number of occasions when guns are used.’
    • ‘To cope with the expected huge numbers of arrests 14 police garages are being converted into lock-up cages.’
    • ‘But, such debates could attract only limited number of people and erudite scholars.’
    • ‘To date, the duo have sold two-and-a-half million albums and about the same number of singles.’
    • ‘Ham House's ghost tours are attracting an increasing number of visitors.’
    • ‘However, the numbers have dwindled to less than a quarter what they once were.’
    • ‘The airport will need to be able to facilitate quick flight turnarounds as well as deal with growing passenger numbers.’
    • ‘The museum has exceeded expected visitor numbers and hit its 300,000 annual target within its first six months.’
    • ‘Simply, step one involves estimating the expected number of substitutions per site accumulating between sampling times.’
    • ‘Five of the 10 harvested fruits were cut transversely to calculate the average locule number per fruit and average fruit.’
    • ‘Metrolink had opened in 1992 and doubled its passenger numbers over the next nine years.’
    • ‘As our numbers grow too high, we bring down the excess population ourselves.’
    • ‘The numbers grow more staggering everyday, making the recovery from Hurricane Charley seem even more daunting.’
    • ‘All but one trial assigned an equal number of participants to the intervention and control groups.’
    • ‘The battlefields of Normandy are drawing increasing numbers of British visitors as the anniversary of D-Day approaches.’
    • ‘Instead, a limited number of substitutions occur at each site.’
    • ‘Both airports claim they need a new runway to cope with increasing passenger numbers.’
    • ‘Many departments already have instituted changes to methodology that have drawn growing numbers to literary studies.’
    • ‘What do you do when people aren't flocking to dance music in the numbers they used to?’
    • ‘The EP has rejected the Council's common position on only a limited number of occasions.’
    amount, quantity
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1a number of Several:
      ‘we have discussed the matter on a number of occasions’
      • ‘Stewart has come close to winning on a number of occasions and this is one major prize at home which has eluded him.’
      • ‘As a performer, she has danced with a number of different companies across the world.’
      • ‘On a number of occasions I have refused a sale simply because I didn't like someone's face or their hands.’
      • ‘A performing arts graduate, Janey Lee will perform a number of her own songs at the Billericay concert.’
      • ‘It has been reiterated on several occasions since through a number of declarations and statements.’
      • ‘The film allows screen time for a number of different dance pieces to be played out in their entirety, much like a musical.’
      • ‘She said she felt she had to resign from Croft House after reports led to officials visiting the home on a number of occasions.’
      • ‘As well as his operatic numbers he includes among his repertoire a number of Irish songs.’
      • ‘An Englishman living in the area was held by police on a number of occasions, but was always released without charge.’
      • ‘All credit to Liverpool who put up a great fight and could have scored through Owen on a number of occasions.’
      • ‘I've met Henrik on a number of occasions and found him extremely pleasant.’
      • ‘They have since completed the challenge on a number of occasions for different charities.’
      • ‘I quit consuming music products a number of years ago and make do with what I had legally acquired by then.’
      • ‘The company has ruled out on a number of occasions a full listing on the stock market.’
      • ‘He has also written a number of original concert pieces and is currently composing a new opera.’
      • ‘This matter has been highlighted on a number of occasions but no one has been apprehended to date.’
      • ‘As well as being a gifted man, he is rib-achingly funny, and has made me cry from laughing so hard on a number of occasions.’
      • ‘They will be performing a number of songs and also designing the programme for the event.’
      • ‘A council spokesman said they had tried on a number of occasions to carry out annual servicing of gas appliances.’
      • ‘Over the past four weeks his car had been targeted on a number of occasions and has suffered thousands of pounds worth of damage.’
      several, various, quite a few, sundry, diverse
      divers
      View synonyms
    2. 2.2 A group or company of people:
      ‘there were some distinguished names among our number’
      • ‘He had offered one of our number the free loan of his Cotswolds mansion for the weekend.’
      • ‘Had there been a woman among their number, things might have been different.’
      • ‘One of their number apologised and explained that their friend was drunk.’
      • ‘Christians in Basra are also grieving the loss of one of their number.’
      • ‘One of their number, Tony, seemed to have adopted me and was willing to show me round.’
      • ‘Among their number are troops able to bridge a 75 ft gap in as little as five minutes.’
      • ‘The Scottish popular press doesn't have a lot of time for gays either, even though there are a few among their number.’
      • ‘They count a chef, a traffic warden, a prison custody officer and a bank clerk among their number.’
      • ‘With men from west Wales among their number, they were among the first of the British troops to arrive in the Gulf.’
      • ‘However, the club are hopeful to have the tricky winger back among their number in the next few days to continue his trial.’
      • ‘Among our number, there must be some who can bring home to the viewers the value and fascination of history as an art and science.’
      • ‘It was amusing to see one of our number downing pints as I don't think I've ever seen her drunk before.’
      • ‘The difference between our numbers in the House and Senate are not that vast.’
      • ‘One of our number locked the cubicle from the inside and we passed boxes to him over the walls.’
      • ‘When one was obtained it had to be smuggled past the camp guards, then passed to one of our number who was able to translate the news.’
      • ‘It's a good question, and as it happens, one of their number has come out of the closet today.’
      • ‘Among their number were old friends or acquaintances who wanted to take a last look and perhaps to take home a memento.’
      • ‘So why are so many politicians so prickly when one of their number spills the beans on another?’
      • ‘One of their number, party strategist Dominic Cummings, explained it to them recently.’
      • ‘The death of one of their number had frightened them, but for how long?’
      group, company, crowd, circle, party, body, band, crew, set
      View synonyms
    3. 2.3numbers A large quantity or amount, often in contrast to a smaller one; numerical preponderance:
      ‘the weight of numbers turned the battle against them’
      • ‘Under the sheer weight of numbers, grandparents, aunts and uncles have begun to disown their own.’
      • ‘Sheer weight of numbers continues to favour players from the States.’
      • ‘The numbers of different sizes, shapes and colours available never ceases to amaze me.’
      • ‘Many of the injured headed for local hospitals which quickly became overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of casualties.’
      • ‘But when has weight of numbers been a reason to pre-empt the outcome of a parliamentary inquiry or cut it short?’
      • ‘It is very rare for the award to be won by teams outside Lismore, with the bigger clubs dominating simply though weight of numbers.’
      • ‘Clearly, the other parties did not have the weight of numbers needed to force that to happen, so we are where we are today.’
      • ‘One obvious advantage was sheer weight of numbers: at both Valmy and Jemappes the enemy was heavily outnumbered.’
      • ‘Protesters find that their objections fall upon deaf ears; their reasons belittled and their sheer weight of numbers ignored.’
      • ‘He was riding his camels along when he saw numbers of spherical white objects.’
      • ‘There were a number of hold ups along the route caused by sheer weight of numbers, but spirits remained high.’
      • ‘Homelessness services are creaking under the weight of numbers, cuts in funding and privatisation in health services.’
      • ‘Exhaustion and weight of numbers also took their toll.’
      • ‘There are a terrifically large number of planets in the galaxy and many people say that the sheer weight of numbers means that life must exist.’
      • ‘Leinster hit back with the weight of numbers and forced Newcastle to concede a penalty try with just five minutes remaining.’
      • ‘Weight of numbers alone suggests the Russians hold all the aces this year.’
      • ‘Pure puzzles put Agatha Christie at the head of the field, and weight of numbers and lack of trendiness have kept her there.’
      • ‘They overcame enormous odds right from the outset but eventually got crushed by weight of numbers.’
      • ‘Was she thinking that weight of numbers might help in a fight?’
      • ‘The Germans may have had a fine submarine on paper but producing it in numbers was a different matter.’
  • 3British A single issue of a magazine:

    ‘the October number of ‘Travel’’
    edition, issue, copy
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1 A song, dance, piece of music, etc., especially one of several in a performance:
      ‘they go from one melodious number to another’
      • ‘Charlie Smyth and the Cast of Cinderella will also perform a few numbers from their sell-out pantomime.’
      • ‘Basically what we have here is a nice, sentimental excuse for lots and lots of song and dance numbers.’
      • ‘I certainly had lumps in my throat - but only when I wasn't marvelling at the many spectacular dance numbers.’
      • ‘This engineering graduate has carved a niche for himself in Malayalam music with his melodious numbers.’
      • ‘For her audition Natalie had to recite two drama pieces and perform three song and dance numbers.’
      • ‘The directional effects here are utilized fully when the songs and dance numbers come into play.’
      • ‘In Glasgow, pantos are a series of song and dance numbers strung together with a bit of patter.’
      • ‘Perhaps not as funny as they're intended to be, the song and dance numbers are highly entertaining just the same.’
      • ‘The sets and costumes are brilliant, as are the dance numbers and musical performances.’
      • ‘Dance and music numbers were the major highlights of the programme.’
      • ‘In one of the program's dance numbers, he performed Topeng Dalem with refined and deeply touching movements.’
      • ‘One afternoon was filled with poetry readings, theatrical performances and dance numbers.’
      • ‘In summary: the major disappointment of Revenge of the Lisp is that there are no big song and dance numbers.’
      • ‘Chow throws in big dance numbers, songs, humour and chase scenes that play like Wiley E Coyote trying to catch Roadrunner.’
      • ‘Chadha's film joyously embraces the elaborate song and dance numbers that are the mainstay of Bollywood.’
      • ‘Skits, songs and dance numbers will be among the highlights of the show.’
      • ‘Intended for comic relief, the song and dance numbers come across as uninspired and robotic.’
      • ‘The cast were great and some of the upbeat numbers and high-energy dance routines were a joy to watch.’
      • ‘While you eat, Burmese dancers perform some traditional numbers accompanied by music of their own.’
      • ‘The performers will also tackle solo songs and duets, group numbers, character dances, duologues and slapstick.’
      song, piece of music, musical item, piece, tune, track
      View synonyms
    2. 3.2informal [usually with adjective or noun modifier] An item of clothing of a particular type, regarded with approval or admiration:
      ‘Yvonne was wearing a little black number’
      • ‘Her friend is one of those people who have no creativity so they just throw on some cat ears with some black slinky numbers.’
      • ‘Noteworthy numbers were the knitted fur cardigans and the silver foil fur-lined jackets.’
      • ‘Their new away shirt, launched this week, is a natty white number featuring an orange sash.’
      • ‘Or maybe it's a racy nouvelle vague number, all headscarves and bicycles made for two.’
      • ‘He found the car, a sleek little black number, and slid behind the wheel.’
      • ‘Last weekend, the Crown was packed with dinner jackets, black ties and pretty girls in scanty numbers.’
      • ‘Made of silky nylon and soft mesh, these little numbers feel so comfortable you may not want to take them off.’
      • ‘The dress was a sleek, black number with tiny, silvery sequins along the low neckline.’
      • ‘Carhartt's roomy over-the-head numbers in soft red or mid-blue have equally roomy front pocket.’
      • ‘She pulled it off, to find a slinky black number, with thin spaghetti-straps and a jagged edge.’
  • 4[mass noun] A grammatical classification of words that consists typically of singular and plural, and, in Greek and certain other languages, dual:

    ‘the form of English pronouns reflects their number and gender’
    • ‘It has a dual number, so nouns and verbs must be learned in singular, dual, and plural.’
    • ‘Human nouns have a distinct class marking mechanism based on number and gender.’
    • ‘Nouns are marked for gender, number, and case as well as for definite and indefinite forms.’
    • ‘Countable nouns make a distinction between singular and plural number.’
    • ‘There was a time a few years ago when the United States was spoken of in the plural number.’

verb

[WITH OBJECT]
  • 1Amount to (a specified figure or quantity); comprise:

    ‘the demonstrators numbered more than 5,000’
    • ‘Homes numbering in the tens of thousands have been destroyed or damaged beyond repair.’
    • ‘The scientific staff will eventually number more than 200.’
    • ‘The military forces number about fifteen thousand and are among the best trained in Africa.’
    • ‘Sources within the disengagement authority say that's because so far the number of families filing for compensation are numbered in the dozens.’
    • ‘A crowd numbering in the thousands later marched on the nearest US base, hurling rocks and chanting anti-American slogans.’
    • ‘I smiled and greeted those people I knew, who numbered in the several dozens.’
    • ‘Current playable songs number only in the hundreds.’
    • ‘At the last two events, the crowds numbered in the millions.’
    • ‘As the officers tried to subdue Gomez, a fourth man began to assault the cops, who by now numbered three women and one man.’
    • ‘By 1920 the Catholic population numbered about seventeen million and included some twenty-eight ethnic groups.’
    • ‘Last year's total Jewish immigration into Israel, numbering some 23,000, was a 15-year low.’
    • ‘At this point, I have boxes full of books, probably numbering somewhere close to 2000.’
    • ‘But in 2000, Native Americans actually numbered closer to 2.5 million.’
    • ‘Metazoans inherited a genome of some still undetermined size, but certainly numbering many thousands of genes, from their protistan ancestor.’
    • ‘In preparing the shows he draws on his own record and compact disc collection numbering in excess of 2,000.’
    • ‘By 1933 it numbered some two million, double the size of the army, which was hostile to them.’
    • ‘And huge sea turtles numbering in the tens of millions flourished in the Caribbean.’
    • ‘In preparing the shows he draws on his own record and compact disk collection numbering in excess of 2,000.’
    • ‘The Beja represent the dominant ethnic group of eastern Sudan, numbering an estimated three million inhabiting a vast arid region that encompasses three countries: Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea.’
    • ‘I used to have a contacts list that numbered no more than four people.’
    add up to, amount to, total, come to
    View synonyms
  • 2Mark with a number or assign a number to, typically to indicate position in a series:

    ‘each document was numbered consecutively’
    • ‘Codes were kept in sequentially numbered opaque envelopes until just before use.’
    • ‘Amino acids are numbered consecutively for each species and indicated at the right margin.’
    • ‘Marked by colourful posts which are not numbered and which are situated at 1km intervals, walkers simply follow the Km signs, setting their own pace as they go.’
    • ‘They have printed cardboard disks that are numbered, and that is how service priority is assigned.’
    • ‘Editions are from 50 to 100 copies - signed and numbered by the artist.’
    • ‘The paragraphs have been numbered for convenience of reference hereafter.’
    • ‘The research assistants used consecutively numbered packs to allocate new participants to treatment groups.’
    • ‘The engineers providing the foam floor forms individually numbered more than 200 panels to match the architect's drawings.’
    • ‘Timbers and stones have been numbered and their location recorded so the bridge will be put back together accurately, he said.’
    • ‘Completion of this order will fill the 500 series with the balance of the order to be numbered 5101-5122.’
    • ‘The permits shall be numbered consecutively at the time they are printed and shall be furnished by the Commissioner of Conservation and Natural Resources.’
    • ‘We randomised patients individually using sealed, opaque, sequentially numbered envelopes.’
    • ‘Each book and report form should be numbered for identification and kept for three years.’
    • ‘Allocations were concealed in sequentially numbered opaque envelopes opened once written parental consent was obtained.’
    • ‘Coffins are being numbered and marked with pictures of the dead inside.’
    • ‘All elements are hand signed and numbered by the artist, and retail for $1,250.’
    • ‘Each segment was named, numbered, and indicated on the log sheet reference.’
    • ‘The forms will be sequentially numbered to record all proprietary plant and services purchases and any overspends or under spends to the budget.’
    • ‘The other series, known as the piezometer series, is numbered simply 1 to 104.’
    • ‘Intron positions were numbered consecutively beginning at the N-terminus of the alignment.’
    assign a number to, categorize by number, specify by number, mark with a number
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 Count:
      ‘strategies like ours can be numbered on the fingers of one hand’
      • ‘And thy servant is in the midst of thy people, which thou has chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered or counted for multitude.’
      • ‘The number of subjects that I could discuss with my parents and claim genuine common experience could be numbered on the fingers of one hand.’
      • ‘The few which manage to maintain the consistency and flow necessary to repeated listening can be numbered on the fingers of one hand.’
      • ‘A study appearing today in the journal Science reports that the hunter-gatherers seem to be the only group of humans known to have no concept of numbering and counting.’
      • ‘I looked away, certain that every blade was numbered.’
      • ‘You know, I really liked when he talked about this being a time for introspection and sort of looking at what we do and why we do it and numbering our days and making sure that the time that we have here is used wisely.’
      count, add up, total, calculate, compute, enumerate, reckon, tell, tally
      View synonyms
  • 3Include or classify as a member of a group:

    ‘the orchestra numbers Brahms among its past conductors’
    • ‘Weigand got really mad when he found out that Dell numbered Handgun Control as a member of its sales affiliate program, by which companies gain fees for referrals.’
    • ‘The Accademia d' Italia, set up in 1929 in imitation of France, never had any real prestige or significance although it numbered among its members a few men of real merit.’
    • ‘The Wheelers were the best cycling club in the city, numbering among their members Ian Steel, who made an abortive appearance in the 1955 Tour, and Billy Bilsland, who had followed Steel and Ken Laidlaw to race in France.’
    • ‘Great Alardyce is indeed of the same generation as Carlyle, Harriet Martineau numbering as a member of both eminent men's circles.’
    • ‘Both Jefferson and Madison numbered the act among their greatest accomplishments.’
    include, count
    View synonyms

Usage

The construction the number of + plural noun is used with a singular verb (as in the number of people affected remains small). Thus it is the noun number rather than the noun people which is taken to agree with the verb (and which is therefore functioning as the head noun). By contrast, the apparently similar construction a number of + plural noun is used with a plural verb (as in a number of people remain to be contacted). In this case it is the noun people which acts as the head noun and with which the verb agrees. In the latter case, a number of works as if it were a single word, such as some or several. See also lot

Phrases

  • any number of

    • 1Any particular whole quantity of:

      ‘the game can involve any number of players’
      • ‘It can involve any number of players and anything can be traded.’
      • ‘Spite and Malice can easily be adapted for any number of players.’
      • ‘To do this, pick any number of the ten and then after counting to three both players will put their bids at the Play Area at the same time.’
      • ‘You can play a game any number of times, however, and the course will always be different.’
      • ‘Before play each player may exchange any number of cards from the hand with her face-up cards.’
      • ‘Players can bid any number of tricks - the bids may or may not add up to the total tricks available.’
      • ‘The lead player plays any number of matching cards, such as four Jacks.’
      • ‘The player to the dealer's left may now discard any number of unwanted cards and replace them by drawing cards from the top of the talon.’
      1. 1.1A large and unlimited quantity or amount of:
        ‘the results can be read any number of ways’
        • ‘This is just one of the many times I and friends have been on a frightening, white knuckle ride with any number of taxi firms in this country.’
        • ‘It's Friday night and you have just arrived home after a tough day in any number of insanely boring classes.’
        • ‘We've been past the hotel any number of times on our way through Ballater, and have always thought that we ought to try a stay there some time.’
        • ‘It's insanely dense too, with each scene capable of being read in any number of ways.’
        • ‘The Associated Press is also covering the story, which can be read in any number of places.’
        • ‘That would do more to help ordinary Africans than any number of musical extravaganzas.’
        • ‘Of course, the killer irony is that smaller cars are better than big ones for any number of reasons.’
        • ‘Instead, it can be used to support any number of contrary interpretations.’
        • ‘Coetzee presents a tensely connected web of longing that pulses with meaning and can be read at any number of levels.’
        • ‘You are much more at risk for heart attack and hypertension and diabetes and any number of things.’
  • by numbers

    • Following simple instructions identified or as if identified by numbers:

      ‘painting by numbers’
      • ‘Does it at times feel like Woody Allen by numbers?’
      • ‘With subtlety off the menu and with little variation in tempo, all the better for head-banging, it was Maiden by numbers, but great for singing along to.’
      • ‘It is 15 years since his critically-acclaimed debut, Let Love Rule, and Kravitz has headed straight for the comfort zone with another of his CDs by numbers.’
      • ‘Join the dots, colour by numbers - it's not like that, is it?’
      • ‘There may have been a certain critical backlash to this by those who assumed it was Hollywood trying to do Bollywood by numbers, but The Guru didn't have aspirations nearly as high as that.’
      • ‘It is one of those variations of painting by numbers where figures are human years and the colors are usually photographs.’
      • ‘It is like making artists paint by numbers or a songwriter use the same four chords in the same order for every song (like Coldplay or Stereophonics).’
      • ‘‘It's politics by numbers,’ says one strategist, for Conservatives to try to drive up the salience of an issue where they're out front.’
      • ‘REM - when did they start just doing REM by numbers?’
      • ‘You can see this big drama up in the first five seconds, then this, then that, then that, so it's writing by numbers, making films by numbers and I think a lot of books are posited on the same kit.’
  • by the numbers

    • In accordance with a rigidly followed set of rules:

      ‘they definitely weren't playing by the numbers’
      [as modifier] ‘there were a few by the numbers plot twists’
      • ‘There is a growing generation gap between old-school general managers and scouts who trusts their instincts and new-breed executives who live to play it by the numbers.’
      • ‘This new film avoids playing by the numbers and follows its own dead-on instincts.’
      • ‘It was a skilful piece of work, a series of invariably thin stories skating along on the bankable watchability of a talented ensemble cast doing it by the numbers.’
      • ‘Other performances are fine but this is really a film by the numbers.’
      • ‘It may be a bit by the numbers, in that you know there will be both a guitar and a drum solo, but that's all right.’
  • someone's (or something's) days are numbered

    • Someone or something will not survive or remain in a position of power or advantage for much longer:

      ‘my days as director were numbered’
      • ‘Many of these types are still running companies, but the tide is turning and their days are numbered.’
      • ‘But racing, in particular, has often suffered from people who deliberately conspire to fix results, and those cheats now know that their days are numbered.’
      • ‘Somehow I can't see that happening, but I do think Chisholm 's days are numbered.’
      • ‘Any manager will tell you that if you lose the dressing room you can still survive, but lose the supporters and your days are numbered.’
      • ‘No doubt the terrorists and insurgents will hit back, and try to punish people; but their days are numbered now.’
      • ‘They are being hunted down, their days are numbered.’
      • ‘To the terrorists I say this, your days are numbered.’
      • ‘Now, once a trial balloon is floated like that, your days are numbered.’
      • ‘The only ones left in the nearly deserted complex are the disabled and those over 65, and their days are numbered.’
      • ‘Once the focal point of every community, rural post office owners are now finding that their days are numbered.’
      limit, limit in number, restrict, fix
      View synonyms
  • do a number on

    • informal Treat someone badly, typically by deceiving, humiliating, or criticizing them in a calculated way.

      • ‘It will knock your socks off - and do a number on your libido!’
      • ‘Maybe all those years in the Navy did a number on his psyche.’
      • ‘Before it fades away entirely, though, Hitchens does a number on the Kennedy presidency.’
      • ‘Any setbacks in that area right now would really do a number on my head.’
      • ‘Gwyneth Paltrow says motherhood is doing a number on her memory.’
      • ‘I think all those hallucinogens you took back in the 70's really did a number on you.’
      • ‘This pregnancy is really doing a number on her hormones, that's the only explanation’
      • ‘Being torn from the only family you thought you knew really does a number on you, doesn't it?’
      • ‘Though he's been doing a number on me with all of this chopping and changing, I think I've been screwing with his head, too, by keeping my emotional distance.’
      • ‘Her unemployment benefits ran out, her stopgap restaurant job couldn't pay her rent and did a number on her self-esteem, and she returned to her crack-cocaine habit, which she'd had under control for ten years.’
  • have someone's number

    • informal Understand a person's real motives or character and thereby gain some advantage.

      • ‘Whatever your dessert personality, Café Crepe has your number.’
      • ‘Yep, there are plenty do-gooders are out there and they have your number, baby, trust me.’
      • ‘The cunning sniper up on the hill in the first mission certainly had my number.’
      • ‘He had our number, all of us, the whole flawed species.’
      • ‘He has our number: people so mesmerised by the material that they only care about the spiritual if they can add ice and lemon to it after they've whisked it through duty free.’
      • ‘As George W. Bush and John Kerry race through their final prep sessions before Friday night's St. Louis slugfest, each of them undoubtedly believes that, in effect, he has your number.’
      • ‘From two sets up Tim tried to head for the finish, but Canas reeled him in with thundering forehands and a deep-seated belief that he had the Briton 's number.’
      • ‘If the cops have your number, you will be screwed no matter how law-abiding you are.’
      • ‘You certainly had my number when you guessed that the only math I can do is the one that comes after…’
      • ‘They can't easily strike in the Middle East precisely because Syria, Egypt, Algeria, etc. have their number and have undertaken massive actions against them.’
      as a bonus, as an extra, into the bargain, to boot, in addition, besides, as well
      View synonyms
  • have someone's number on it

    • informal (of a bomb, bullet, or other missile) destined to find a specified person as its target.

      • ‘You just didn't know whether the next bullet or shell had your number on it.’
      • ‘As a batsman or an umpire a ball always has your number on it and if I made a mistake, so be it.’
  • someone's number is up

    • informal The time has come when someone is doomed to die or suffer some other disaster or setback:

      ‘though he had survived a thousand crises, he knew that this time his number was up’
      • ‘He has even arranged for his body to be returned to Tibet for a traditional sky burial when his number is up.’
      • ‘The characters in this film have to figure out when their number is up and avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time, which is what we do as human beings every day.’
      • ‘They are sending a very clear signal to this Government that its number is up, and that Government members should start brushing off their CVs and looking for a new job.’
      • ‘I was happy enough to play on just as a senior pro but then I was told I would struggle to keep my first-team place, and when you hear that, you know your number is up.’
      • ‘Some of those members opposite who are sitting in marginal rural seats or marginal provincial seats should really start to worry, because their number is up.’
      • ‘It doesn't seem to displace much air hence they have little warning, and once they come in contact with the ‘strings’, their number is up!’
      • ‘Of life and possible dangers in Basrah he said: ‘As many of the lads say, when your number is up it's up.’’
      • ‘Although it must be tempting to tell someone that you love that you love them when you know your number is up, if you also know the true perpetrator of a crime that someone else is suspected of, surely you are duty bound to blurt that out first.’
      • ‘Peter Fraser had principles; this Prime Minister has only her polls - and her number is up.’
      • ‘I am a pragmatic person and if your number is up it's up.’
  • without number

    • Too many to count:

      ‘I began to write to you times without number’
      • ‘In today's Highlands, the march of the modern means that the hills support unsaleable sheep and the shores inedible shellfish; salmon are caged and deer without number pollute the bens.’
      • ‘This is in sharp contrast to the stand of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad which has made no such commitment and reiterated times without number that it shall accept only a favourable judicial verdict!’
      • ‘These examples could be multiplied almost without number.’
      • ‘May your joys be without number and your troubles few.’
      • ‘Echenoz seems to have met his publisher face to face times without number over the years, without any suggestion that a hired intermediary would be a good idea.’
      • ‘A theology of blessing begins with God, the fountain of all blessings, whose benevolence toward his creation produces mercies without number.’
      • ‘The web sites devoted to Hitchcock and his films are almost without number.’
      • ‘But Leander, a born fighter who had proved times without number that he would never take defeat lying down, recovered in a fashion that can well be described as a miracle.’
      • ‘For the next year or so, he trotted out that phrase times without number.’
      • ‘Now 72 years old, he has won awards without number, including, in 1984, the Nobel Peace Prize.’

Origin

Middle English: from Old French nombre (noun), nombrer (verb), from Latin numerus.

Pronunciation

number

/ˈnʌmbə/