Definition of three in English:


cardinal number

  • 1Equivalent to the sum of one and two; one more than two; 3.

    ‘her three children’
    ‘a crew of three’
    [in combination] ‘a three-bedroom house’
    ‘all three of them are buried there’
    • ‘My husband has managed to frighten away burglars on two occasions in the past three years.’
    • ‘They have put in an amount of hard work over the past three years with nothing to show for it.’
    • ‘Vintage champagne must be aged for at least three years before it can be sold, although most is aged for much longer.’
    • ‘He has experimented with it and applied it well during the past three years in India.’
    • ‘But meanwhile the nightmare that had haunted them for the past three years had come true.’
    • ‘As I was speaking to her on the phone, three people walked past my flat carrying a mattress.’
    • ‘It is understood that an inspector visited the school three times in the past year.’
    • ‘It has been three and a half centuries since England last had an official jester.’
    • ‘He has been one of Britain's top jockeys for the past two to three years.’
    • ‘He dribbled past three French players, before rounding the goalkeeper to score.’
    • ‘The team operates a rota system and on any night there will be three members of staff on duty who will be on hand to help people in crisis.’
    • ‘Growers have yet to recover the sale proceeds from sugar mills for the past three years.’
    • ‘In all, what would normally be about a 45-minute journey took three and a half hours.’
    • ‘Without a word they line up into three rows to monopolize half the pool.’
    • ‘Indeed, he has won medals at the past three Olympics, the only Great Britain athlete to have done so.’
    • ‘I watched powerlessly as three buses zoomed past until a bus with room for me stopped.’
    • ‘One of our group had told his boss he was working from home during the past three days.’
    • ‘In the recent past at least three large houses in the road have been given permission for redevelopment as flats.’
    • ‘For three days and nights Florence will be buzzing with ideas and activity.’
    • ‘Children up to the age of three are admitted free, while those from three to 14 pay half the adult price.’
    1. 1.1A group or unit of three people or things.
      ‘students clustered in twos or threes’
      • ‘Ruddy-faced Frank, looking far younger than his 90 years, recalls how he worked with teams of Clydesdale horses, sometimes in pairs and threes for ploughing.’
      • ‘The dogs, cats and birds were mostly caged, often in pairs and sometimes in threes.’
      • ‘Cultural trends, like proverbial buses, always come in threes.’
      • ‘Tragedy, as we all know, always strikes in threes.’
      • ‘Within this overall pattern of threes, further triple movements can be distinguished.’
      • ‘Why do famous people always die in twos and threes?’
      • ‘Being a firm believer in the superstition that bad things always come in threes, I would like to start a pool to bet on what will be the third trusted cultural institution to implode in a dramatic and messy way.’
      • ‘There's an old saying that things always come in threes.’
      • ‘We're having a technical hitch or three at work today - they always happen in threes, believe me.’
      • ‘They must walk in pairs or threes, sometimes ones.’
      • ‘Tunes are usually joined together in pairs or threes, each running into each.’
      • ‘Plant in ones, threes and dozens for a natural looking effect.’
      • ‘But, you know what they say: bad things always come in threes.’
      • ‘A trio of choristers have proved good things come in threes after chalking up a collective 210 years' service in their church's choir.’
      • ‘There was no doubt about it all - deaths always came in threes round our wee town.’
      • ‘Race formats are done in pairs, threes and most commonly four-person races.’
      • ‘They always come in threes and fours, never enough to merit storing like items together in film cans or little drawers.’
      • ‘Each episode features an ever-changing grouping of the main characters in pairs or threes.’
      • ‘Pictures of the Rosetti family were grouped in pairs or threes on the walls and there was one large picture of a handsome man in an army uniform on the mantel piece.’
      • ‘Worries that bad luck always comes in threes were soon proved well-founded when a third cast member phoned to say he had also injured his ankle.’
      trio, threesome, triad, troika, triumvirate, trilogy, triptych, trefoil, three-piece, triplets
      tern, triunity, triune, triplicity
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2Three years old.
      ‘she is only three’
      • ‘His father, died before his birth and his mother when he reached the age of three.’
      • ‘Mum and Dad had a camcorder and I was chubby when I was running around on a beach at the age of three.’
      • ‘Suitable for children aged three and upwards it conforms with European safety regulations.’
      • ‘The couple now have four children - two boys and two girls ranging in age from three to 23.’
      • ‘I was eight years old on May 30, and since the age of three I have always wanted to be a fireman.’
      • ‘He recalled how the deceased had decided he wanted to be a soldier from the age of three.’
      • ‘My daughter is three and a half, she hasn't seen her father since she was one year.’
      • ‘Picture her at the age of three having dinner at the Dorchester Hotel in London.’
      • ‘Roger says they are mainly intended for children aged between three and five.’
      • ‘A good starting point would be the mother, who is the major influence for most children up to age three.’
      • ‘Earlier, at the age of three she had suffered a severe fall down some stairs.’
      • ‘Andy, who also played the drums and keyboard, had suffered from asthma and a nut allergy since the age of three.’
      • ‘Why do children forget most of what happened to them before the age of three?’
      • ‘In fact, there is no evidence that tonsils or adenoids are important after the age of three.’
      • ‘His first stage performance was at the age of three, when he appeared in a play directed by his mother.’
      • ‘At the age of three, she could already pick out a colour mistake in her uncle's tie.’
      • ‘She claims she was an alcoholic by the age of three and an anorexic by thirteen.’
      • ‘She's been on the stage since the age of three so nothing fazes her at all.’
      • ‘Memories of the disaster may not be there in the minds of children below the age of three, he says.’
      • ‘Lindsay started her career at the age of three when she was signed by a prestigious model agency.’
    3. 1.3Three o'clock.
      ‘I'll come at three’
      • ‘You are having breakfast in the evening and lunch at three in the morning.’
      • ‘He was abducted at ten past three and the car was found burnt out five hours later at 8.17 pm.’
      • ‘At ten past three they finally stopped talking, had a cup of tea and the best night's sleep for months.’
      • ‘So at half past three we had the fun of trying to get back to civilisation.’
      • ‘Nominally Elliot's goal was game over, but you could probably have said that at quarter past three.’
    4. 1.4A size of garment or other merchandise denoted by three.
      • ‘As hard as I try, my feet just won't fit into those size threes, though I'd very much like them to, if not for style then for tax saving purposes.’
      • ‘Footballs and rugby balls must be a size three or smaller and can only be used within the tennis courts.’
    5. 1.5A playing card or domino with three pips.
      • ‘You may also use the red threes to block the discard pile, in the same manner as you would do with the black threes or the wild cards.’
      • ‘Bonuses for red threes, canastas and so on cannot be counted towards meeting the minimum.’
      • ‘Once all the twos are removed, you remove the threes as they appear, then the fours, etc.’
      • ‘You do not count a canasta bonus for a meld of black threes, however.’
      • ‘A 45 card pack is used - a standard pack without the twos and threes but including a joker.’
      • ‘Bonuses for red threes and canastas do not count towards this minimum - it must be achieved by means of the value of the cards in the meld.’
      • ‘Some players allow the pairs hand to include sevens or aces but never threes or wild cards.’
      • ‘Any black threes that you are left with at the end count 5 points against you.’
      • ‘At this point there will be one player with a two and one player with a three.’
      • ‘Some play that a prial of threes or a prial of sevens, rather than nines, is highest.’
      • ‘As the twos and threes are out of play, the point for lowest is awarded to whoever holds the four of trumps.’
      • ‘Note that the threes are subject to the rules of following suit, and have no power except to beat the two of the same suit.’
      • ‘There are 7 suits: blanks, ones, twos, threes, fours, fives and sixes.’
      • ‘For a three player game, take out the three of a non-trump suit, and two non-trump threes if it is a five player game.’
      • ‘Any threes you get are thrown into the central discard pile.’
      • ‘Then play twos on top of the Aces, threes on top of the twos, and so on.’
      • ‘All the twos, threes and fours are removed from the deck, leaving 45 cards including the Rook card.’
      • ‘In this version all the threes and the two jokers are wild cards that can represent any other card.’
      • ‘Aces are worth one point and threes, twos and pictures are worth one third of a point each.’
      • ‘When melding black threes in the process of going out, it is permissible to meld two black threes and a wild card.’


  • three parts

    • Three out of four equal parts; three quarters.

      • ‘His latest is a more uniform effort that's three parts romance, one part social consciousness.’
      • ‘It is one part perplexing and three parts frustration not only for him but for everyone who is willing him to find some consistency and at least one more trophy.’
      • ‘Put it down to one part torpor, three parts busyness.’


Old English thrīe (masculine), thrīo, thrēo (feminine), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch drie and German drei, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin tres and Greek treis.