num·​ber | \ˈnəm-bər \

Definition of number 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a(1) : a sum of units : total the number of people in the hall

(2) : complement sense 1b(1) … the whole number of Senators …U.S. Constitution

(3) : an indefinite usually large total a number of members were absent the number of elderly is rising

(4) numbers plural : a numerous group : many numbers died on the way— Marjory S. Douglas

(5) : a numerical preponderance (see preponderance sense 2) There's safety in numbers.

b(1) : the characteristic of an individual by which it is treated as a unit or of a collection by which it is treated in terms of units there is a limited number of such laboratories— P. D. Close

(2) : an ascertainable total bugs beyond number

c(1) : a unit belonging to an abstract mathematical system and subject to specified laws of succession, addition, and multiplication a number divisible by 2 especially : natural number

(2) : an element (such as π) of any of many mathematical systems obtained by extension of or analogy with the natural number system

(3) numbers plural : arithmetic Teach children their numbers.

2 : a distinction of word form to denote reference to one or more than one A subject and its verb should agree in number. also : a form or group of forms so distinguished

3 numbers plural

a(1) : metrical structure : meter … most by numbers judge a poet's song.— Alexander Pope

(2) : metrical lines : verses These numbers will I tear, and write in prose.— Shakespeare

b archaic : musical sounds : notes

4a : a word, symbol, letter, or combination of symbols representing a number Spell out the numbers one through ten.

b : a numeral or combination of numerals or other symbols used to identify or designate dialed the wrong number

c(1) : a member of a sequence or collection designated by especially consecutive numbers (such as an issue of a periodical) just received issue number 8 of the magazine

(2) : a position in a numbered sequence You're number 7 on the waiting list.

d : a group of one kind not of their number

5 : one singled out from a group : individual: such as

a : girl, woman met an attractive number at the dance

b(1) : a musical, theatrical, or literary selection or production The actors broke into a song and dance number.

(2) : routine, act The comedian's number had the audience laughing out loud.

c : stunt, trick

d : an act of transforming or impairing tripped and did a number on her knee

e : an item of merchandise and especially clothing put that black velvet number with the sequins on the blonde dummy— Bennett Cerf

6 : insight into a person's ability or character had my number

7 numbers plural in form but singular or plural in construction

a : a form of lottery in which an individual wagers on the appearance of a certain combination of digits (as in regularly published numbers)

called also numbers game

b : policy entry 2 sense 2a

8 numbers plural

a : figures representing amounts of money usually in dollars spent, earned, or involved We won't be able to stay in business with numbers like these.

b(1) : statistics sense 2 especially : individual statistics (as of an athlete) Her numbers make her the most valuable member of the team.

(2) : rating sense 3c

9 : a person represented by a number or considered without regard to individuality at the university I was just a number

10 : lifetime sense 1a used with up the old feeling that comes to men in combat … that your number was up— Geoffrey Norman

by the numbers

1 : in unison to a specific count or cadence

2 : in a systematic, routine, or mechanical manner a program run not by the numbers but with concern for the participants

number table


numbered; numbering\ˈnəm-​b(ə-​)riŋ \

Definition of number (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

2 : to claim as part of a total : include

3 : to restrict to a definite number your days are numbered

4 : to assign a number to number the pages

5 : to amount to in number : total the crew numbers 100

intransitive verb

1 : to reach a total number

2 : to call off numbers in sequence

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Other Words from number


numberable \ˈnəm-​b(ə-​)rə-​bəl \ adjective
numberer \ˈnəm-​bər-​ər \ noun

Synonyms for number

Synonyms: Noun

digit, figure, integer, numeral, numeric, whole number

Synonyms: Verb

count, enumerate, tell

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Amount vs. Number: Usage Guide


Number is regularly used with count nouns a large number of mistakes any number of times while amount is mainly used with mass nouns. annual amount of rainfall a substantial amount of money The use of amount with count nouns has been frequently criticized; it usually occurs when the number of things is thought of as a mass or collection glad to furnish any amount of black pebbles New Yorker a substantial amount of film offers — Lily Tomlin or when money is involved. a substantial amount of loans — E. R. Black

Examples of number in a Sentence


the numbers and letters on a license plate a three-digit number like 429 Think of a number between one and one hundred. 2, 4, 6, and 8 are even numbers; 1, 3, 5, and 7 are odd numbers. Never give out your credit card number to anyone over the phone. What's the account number on your electricity bill? The page numbers are on the top corner of each page. Today's winning lottery numbers are 17, 8, and 46. I'm waiting for the number 3 bus.


She numbers and arranges the photographs according to when they were taken. Each print is signed and numbered by the artist. The team's coach bought all the players numbered jerseys. In that year, European settlers in the area numbered nearly 15,000. The animal, which once numbered in the millions, is now extinct. He numbers her with the other great poets of the time.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

That number dips slightly to 69 percent for BRCA2 mutations. Korin Miller, SELF, "Do You Always Get BRCA Testing When Diagnosed With Breast or Ovarian Cancer?," 30 Nov. 2018 Marriott did encrypt this information using Advanced Encryption Standard encryption (AES-128), but the company notes both components needed to decrypt payment card numbers may have been stolen. Tom Warren, The Verge, "Marriott reveals massive database breach affecting up to 500 million hotel guests," 30 Nov. 2018 That number cannot grow very large, though, as that would drive atoms away. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Bose Einstein condensate may reveal supersolid’s secrets," 28 Nov. 2018 But human rights activists put that number at 12,000-plus plus plus plus. Eric Johnson, Recode, "Memo from a ‘Facebook nation’ to Mark Zuckerberg: You moved fast and broke our country.," 26 Nov. 2018 The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. Rachel Withers, Vox, "Trump skipped Arlington Cemetery on Veterans Day because he was “extremely busy”," 17 Nov. 2018 What the election results do show us is the extent to which people were able to organize and mobilize in great enough numbers to overcome the massive voter suppression tactics being utilized against them. Bree Newsome, SELF, "The 2018 Midterm Elections Proved That Change Must Happen from the Ground Up," 15 Nov. 2018 Mexican authorities are increasingly overwhelmed with the huge logistical and sanitary challenges linked to the arrival of large numbers of migrants. WSJ, "Largest of Migrant Caravans Splits Into Smaller Groups," 12 Nov. 2018 Hayashi, who became university president in September following her predecessor’s resignation over a bribery allegation that led to exposure of the exam manipulation, said she was shocked by the large number of women who were denied entry. Mari Yamaguchi, The Seattle Times, "Japan med school to admit dozens of unfairly rejected women," 7 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The crowd, which numbered 10,000, according to the Columbus Dispatch, gathered outside the Ohio statehouse. Edward Mckinley, kansascity, "KC union retirees join rally in Ohio for pension fix — or is it a bailout?," 13 July 2018 Kentucky’s Rocky Mountain herd now numbers about 11,000, the largest population (pdf) in any state east of the Mississippi. Leslie Nemo, Scientific American, "From Defiled to Wild—Can a Spent Coal Mine Be Reborn as a Nature Conservation Center?," 11 July 2018 The zoo expanded its 40-acre Watani Grasslands Reserve in 2008 specifically for a breeding rhino herd, which now numbers eight animals. Bruce Henderson, charlotteobserver, "They've been hunted to near-extinction. A birth at the NC Zoo brings special joy.," 5 July 2018 But her husband Rory announced in a tear-jerking blog post that Joey's days are numbered after a long battle with cervical cancer. Megan Friedman, Country Living, "Country Star Joey Feek Is Spending Her Last Days in Hospice Care, With Her Baby Daughter By Her Side," 10 Nov. 2015 Also: It’s hand-numbered in editions of 100, echoing fine art practices. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "Want a Limited Edition Warhol-Inspired Tee? You’ll Have to Work for It," 15 Nov. 2018 As pointed out in a now viral tweet, Beauty Bakerie numbers the darkest shades in its foundation range first. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Beauty Bakerie Cosmetics Is Coming to Ulta," 3 Oct. 2018 Your bra size is a ratio that combines the measurements of your cup (letters AA-M) and band size (numbered 28-44). Talia Abbas, SELF, "11 Expert Tips for Finding the Right Bra Size and Fit," 23 July 2018 Taking a look at Chen’s numbers a little more closely seems to somewhat back up Straily’s beliefs. Mike Persak,, "Marlins pitchers downplay effect of Marlins Park on better home splits," 14 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'number.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of number


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for number


Middle English nombre, from Anglo-French, from Latin numerus


see number entry 1

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Statistics for number

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for number

The first known use of number was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for number



English Language Learners Definition of number

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a word or symbol (such as “five” or “16”) that represents a specific amount or quantity

: a number or a set of numbers and other symbols that is used to identify a person or thing

: a person who is identified by a number and not treated in a personal or friendly way



English Language Learners Definition of number (Entry 2 of 2)

: to give a number to (someone or something in a series) : to label or identify (people or things in a series) with a number

: to include (someone or something) as part of a larger group


num·​ber | \ˈnəm-bər \

Kids Definition of number

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the total of persons, things, or units taken together : amount What is the number of people in the room?

2 : a total that is not specified … the mermaids come up in extraordinary numbers to play with their bubbles.— J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

3 : a unit belonging to a mathematical system and subject to its rules Tell me a number divisible by 2.

4 : a word, symbol, or letter used to represent a mathematical number : numeral the number 5

5 : a certain numeral for telling one person or thing from another or from others a house number

6 : a quality of a word form that shows whether the word is singular or plural A verb agrees in number with its subject.

7 : one of a series You're number seven on the waiting list.

8 : a song or dance usually that is part of a larger performance The band played a catchy number.


numbered; numbering

Kids Definition of number (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : count entry 1 sense 1 The grains of sand cannot be numbered.

2 : include I was numbered among the guests.

3 : to limit to a certain number Vacation days are numbered now.

4 : to give a number to Number the pages of your journal.

5 : to add up to or have a total of Our group numbered ten in all.

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More from Merriam-Webster on number

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with number

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for number

Spanish Central: Translation of number

Nglish: Translation of number for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of number for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about number

Comments on number

What made you want to look up number? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


living or existing for a long time

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