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

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

But the number of employees hired without pensions has increased to more than 4,000 since then, more than doubling the city’s potential cost. David Garrick,, "If state Supreme Court rules against San Diego on pensions, it could could cost city millions," 14 July 2018 On ground balls, those numbers are a .235 batting average and .491 OPS. Alex Speier,, "What’s up with all the strikeouts in Major League Baseball?," 12 July 2018 The number of people seeking food could range from 60 to 200. Nyssa Kruse,, "CRT Volunteer George Brice Helps The Hungry, 'Rain Or Shine'," 12 July 2018 The numbers do not include how many of the complaints have been dismissed or resolved. Kimberlee Kruesi, idahostatesman, "In wake of #MeToo, Idaho sees dramatic increase in sexual harassment claims," 12 July 2018 Perhaps the numbers will turn around again, but at this point the commonly discussed (among Republicans, anyway) idea that 2018 would turn out to be a good GOP year after all seems implausible. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "Democrats Look Good Again on Key Midterm Polling Numbers," 12 July 2018 The Chamber of Commerce put the number at 2.6 million jobs. David Dayen, The New Republic, "The Inevitable Death of Global Trade As We Know It," 12 July 2018 Another change, Dumais said Thursday, would eliminate the number of days a business could have a food truck on site as an accessory use. Mikaela Porter, Courant Community, "Proposed Changes To Streamline West Hartford's Entertainment, Food Truck Ordinances Go To Public Hearing Tuesday," 12 July 2018 San Francisco, with a population of 870,000, is about 6 percent black – one of the smallest percentages among major U.S. cities – and those numbers are dwindling. Janie Har, USA TODAY, "London Breed to be sworn in as San Francisco's first black female mayor," 11 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

On Thursday, CBS News' Haley Joelle Ott reports protesters numbering in the dozens showed up to express their outrage over the Trump administration's recently policy about separating children from their families at the border. CBS News, "Trump's London stay met by protesters," 12 July 2018 Colombians make up only a small fraction of Alaska's population of 40,000 or so Hispanics, numbering in the hundreds in Anchorage according to the most recent Census data available, from 2010. Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News, "For Anchorage’s soccer-mad Colombians, World Cup time means new connections — and parties," 4 July 2018 The days when Reuters could rely on financial data terminals to pay for its global newsgathering are now numbered. Felix Salmon, Recode, "Reuters just got $10 billion to build a sustainable news business. How should it spend it?," 16 Mar. 2018 The days of cottonwood trees in Highland's parks and along its streets are numbered. Craig Lyons, Post-Tribune, "Highland moves forward with plan to diversify tree population," 9 Mar. 2018 Getty Images Roger Ailes' days as Fox News CEO are numbered, reports New York magazine. Samantha Leal, Marie Claire, "Roger Ailes Reportedly Being Ousted from Fox News," 18 July 2016 The American armed forces and Australian police provided several helpers, but the mission appears to have been led by the BCRC amateurs, who eventually numbered seven. The Economist, "A cave rescue in Thailand shows Britain’s skill at spelunking," 11 July 2018 Olszewski had a team of more than a dozen people observing the process, while Brochin’s team numbered about half a dozen. Pamela Wood,, "Absentee vote count begins in Baltimore County; three-way executive primary still undecided," 28 June 2018 Observers say the measures would serve notice to the state’s remaining 11 or so legal brothels that their days could be numbered, too. Jim Carlton, WSJ, "Is the Party Over for Nevada’s Legal Brothels? Possibility of a Ban Looms," 16 June 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

10 Oct 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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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).


to reject or criticize sharply

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