Definition of three in US English:


cardinal number

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

    ‘her three children’
    ‘a crew of three’
    ‘a three-bedroom house’
    ‘all three of them are buried there’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘My husband has managed to frighten away burglars on two occasions in the past three years.’
    • ‘Children up to the age of three are admitted free, while those from three to 14 pay half the adult price.’
    • ‘In the recent past at least three large houses in the road have been given permission for redevelopment as flats.’
    • ‘He has experimented with it and applied it well during the past three years in India.’
    • ‘He dribbled past three French players, before rounding the goalkeeper to score.’
    • ‘They have put in an amount of hard work over the past three years with nothing to show for it.’
    • ‘It has been three and a half centuries since England last had an official jester.’
    • ‘It is understood that an inspector visited the school three times in the past year.’
    • ‘Growers have yet to recover the sale proceeds from sugar mills for the past three years.’
    • ‘But meanwhile the nightmare that had haunted them for the past three years had come true.’
    • ‘He has been one of Britain's top jockeys for the past two to three years.’
    • ‘For three days and nights Florence will be buzzing with ideas and activity.’
    • ‘As I was speaking to her on the phone, three people walked past my flat carrying a mattress.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘One of our group had told his boss he was working from home during the past three days.’
    • ‘Vintage champagne must be aged for at least three years before it can be sold, although most is aged for much longer.’
    1. 1.1 A group or unit of three people or things.
      ‘students clustered in twos or threes’
      • ‘They always come in threes and fours, never enough to merit storing like items together in film cans or little drawers.’
      • ‘The dogs, cats and birds were mostly caged, often in pairs and sometimes in 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 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.’
      • ‘Cultural trends, like proverbial buses, 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.’
      • ‘Plant in ones, threes and dozens for a natural looking effect.’
      • ‘Each episode features an ever-changing grouping of the main characters in pairs or threes.’
      • ‘Tunes are usually joined together in pairs or threes, each running into each.’
      • ‘They must walk in pairs or threes, sometimes ones.’
      • ‘There's an old saying that things always come in threes.’
      • ‘But, you know what they say: bad things always come in threes.’
      • ‘Why do famous people always die in twos and 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Within this overall pattern of threes, further triple movements can be distinguished.’
      • ‘We're having a technical hitch or three at work today - they always happen in threes, believe me.’
      • ‘Tragedy, as we all know, always strikes in 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.’
      trio, threesome, triad, troika, triumvirate, trilogy, triptych, trefoil, three-piece, triplets
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Three years old.
      ‘she is only three’
      • ‘A good starting point would be the mother, who is the major influence for most children up to age three.’
      • ‘Mum and Dad had a camcorder and I was chubby when I was running around on a beach at the age of three.’
      • ‘My daughter is three and a half, she hasn't seen her father since she was one year.’
      • ‘Earlier, at the age of three she had suffered a severe fall down some stairs.’
      • ‘Picture her at the age of three having dinner at the Dorchester Hotel in London.’
      • ‘In fact, there is no evidence that tonsils or adenoids are important after the age of three.’
      • ‘His father, died before his birth and his mother when he reached the age of three.’
      • ‘I was eight years old on May 30, and since the age of three I have always wanted to be a fireman.’
      • ‘Lindsay started her career at the age of three when she was signed by a prestigious model agency.’
      • ‘He recalled how the deceased had decided he wanted to be a soldier from the age of three.’
      • ‘The couple now have four children - two boys and two girls ranging in age from three to 23.’
      • ‘At the age of three, she could already pick out a colour mistake in her uncle's tie.’
      • ‘His first stage performance was at the age of three, when he appeared in a play directed by his mother.’
      • ‘Roger says they are mainly intended for children aged between three and five.’
      • ‘Memories of the disaster may not be there in the minds of children below the age of three, he says.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘Suitable for children aged three and upwards it conforms with European safety regulations.’
      • ‘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.’
    3. 1.3 Three o'clock.
      ‘I'll come at three’
      • ‘At ten past three they finally stopped talking, had a cup of tea and the best night's sleep for months.’
      • ‘Nominally Elliot's goal was game over, but you could probably have said that at quarter past three.’
      • ‘You are having breakfast in the evening and lunch at three in the morning.’
      • ‘So at half past three we had the fun of trying to get back to civilisation.’
      • ‘He was abducted at ten past three and the car was found burnt out five hours later at 8.17 pm.’
    4. 1.4 A 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. 1.5 A playing card or domino with three pips.
      • ‘Once all the twos are removed, you remove the threes as they appear, then the fours, etc.’
      • ‘When melding black threes in the process of going out, it is permissible to meld two black threes and a wild card.’
      • ‘Some players allow the pairs hand to include sevens or aces but never threes or wild cards.’
      • ‘All the twos, threes and fours are removed from the deck, leaving 45 cards including the Rook card.’
      • ‘Bonuses for red threes, canastas and so on cannot be counted towards meeting the minimum.’
      • ‘In this version all the threes and the two jokers are wild cards that can represent any other card.’
      • ‘A 45 card pack is used - a standard pack without the twos and threes but including a joker.’
      • ‘At this point there will be one player with a two and one player with a three.’
      • ‘You do not count a canasta bonus for a meld of black threes, however.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There are 7 suits: blanks, ones, twos, threes, fours, fives and sixes.’
      • ‘Any threes you get are thrown into the central discard pile.’
      • ‘Any black threes that you are left with at the end count 5 points against you.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘As the twos and threes are out of play, the point for lowest is awarded to whoever holds the four of trumps.’
      • ‘Aces are worth one point and threes, twos and pictures are worth one third of a point each.’
      • ‘Some play that a prial of threes or a prial of sevens, rather than nines, is highest.’
      • ‘Then play twos on top of the Aces, threes on top of the twos, and so on.’
      • ‘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.’


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.