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’
    • ‘Growers have yet to recover the sale proceeds from sugar mills for the past three years.’
    • ‘It is understood that an inspector visited the school three times in the past year.’
    • ‘Indeed, he has won medals at the past three Olympics, the only Great Britain athlete to have done so.’
    • ‘They have put in an amount of hard work over the past three years with nothing to show for it.’
    • ‘My husband has managed to frighten away burglars on two occasions in the past three years.’
    • ‘He dribbled past three French players, before rounding the goalkeeper to score.’
    • ‘In the recent past at least three large houses in the road have been given permission for redevelopment as flats.’
    • ‘I watched powerlessly as three buses zoomed past until a bus with room for me stopped.’
    • ‘He has been one of Britain's top jockeys for the past two to three years.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He has experimented with it and applied it well during the past three years in India.’
    • ‘It has been three and a half centuries since England last had an official jester.’
    • ‘As I was speaking to her on the phone, three people walked past my flat carrying a mattress.’
    • ‘In all, what would normally be about a 45-minute journey took three and a half hours.’
    • ‘Vintage champagne must be aged for at least three years before it can be sold, although most is aged for much longer.’
    • ‘But meanwhile the nightmare that had haunted them for the past three years had come true.’
    • ‘One of our group had told his boss he was working from home during the past three days.’
    • ‘Without a word they line up into three rows to monopolize half the pool.’
    • ‘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. 1.1 A group or unit of three people or things.
      ‘students clustered in twos or threes’
      • ‘Why do famous people always die in twos and threes?’
      • ‘But, you know what they say: bad things always come in threes.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Tragedy, as we all know, always strikes in threes.’
      • ‘They must walk in pairs or threes, sometimes ones.’
      • ‘Within this overall pattern of threes, further triple movements can be distinguished.’
      • ‘There's an old saying that things always come 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.’
      • ‘The dogs, cats and birds were mostly caged, often in pairs and sometimes in threes.’
      • ‘Plant in ones, threes and dozens for a natural looking effect.’
      • ‘Cultural trends, like proverbial buses, always come in threes.’
      • ‘Race formats are done in pairs, threes and most commonly four-person races.’
      • ‘Tunes are usually joined together in pairs or threes, each running into each.’
      • ‘We're having a technical hitch or three at work today - they always happen in threes, believe me.’
      • ‘There was no doubt about it all - deaths always came in threes round our wee town.’
      • ‘A trio of choristers have proved good things come in threes after chalking up a collective 210 years' service in their church's choir.’
      trio, threesome, triad, troika, triumvirate, trilogy, triptych, trefoil, three-piece, triplets
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Three years old.
      ‘she is only three’
      • ‘Suitable for children aged three and upwards it conforms with European safety regulations.’
      • ‘His father, died before his birth and his mother when he reached the age of three.’
      • ‘Earlier, at the age of three she had suffered a severe fall down some stairs.’
      • ‘Mum and Dad had a camcorder and I was chubby when I was running around on a beach at the age of three.’
      • ‘His first stage performance was at the age of three, when he appeared in a play directed by his mother.’
      • ‘My daughter is three and a half, she hasn't seen her father since she was one year.’
      • ‘Andy, who also played the drums and keyboard, had suffered from asthma and a nut allergy since the age of three.’
      • ‘The couple now have four children - two boys and two girls ranging in age from three to 23.’
      • ‘She's been on the stage since the age of three so nothing fazes her at all.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Why do children forget most of what happened to them before the age of three?’
      • ‘At the age of three, she could already pick out a colour mistake in her uncle's tie.’
      • ‘Lindsay started her career at the age of three when she was signed by a prestigious model agency.’
      • ‘Memories of the disaster may not be there in the minds of children below the age of three, he says.’
      • ‘In fact, there is no evidence that tonsils or adenoids are important after the age of three.’
      • ‘He recalled how the deceased had decided he wanted to be a soldier from the age of three.’
      • ‘A good starting point would be the mother, who is the major influence for most children up to age three.’
      • ‘She claims she was an alcoholic by the age of three and an anorexic by thirteen.’
      • ‘I was eight years old on May 30, and since the age of three I have always wanted to be a fireman.’
    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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
    4. 1.4 A size of garment or other merchandise denoted by three.
      • ‘Footballs and rugby balls must be a size three or smaller and can only be used within the tennis courts.’
      • ‘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.’
    5. 1.5 A playing card or domino with three pips.
      • ‘Any black threes that you are left with at the end count 5 points against you.’
      • ‘Then play twos on top of the Aces, threes on top of the twos, and so on.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘All the twos, threes and fours are removed from the deck, leaving 45 cards including the Rook card.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Any threes you get are thrown into the central discard pile.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘As the twos and threes are out of play, the point for lowest is awarded to whoever holds the four of trumps.’
      • ‘Bonuses for red threes, canastas and so on cannot be counted towards meeting the minimum.’
      • ‘At this point there will be one player with a two and one player with a three.’
      • ‘Some players allow the pairs hand to include sevens or aces but never threes or wild cards.’
      • ‘Some play that a prial of threes or a prial of sevens, rather than nines, is highest.’
      • ‘A 45 card pack is used - a standard pack without the twos and threes but including a joker.’
      • ‘In this version all the threes and the two jokers are wild cards that can represent any other card.’
      • ‘You do not count a canasta bonus for a meld of black threes, however.’
      • ‘Once all the twos are removed, you remove the threes as they appear, then the fours, etc.’


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.