su·​per·​nu·​mer·​ary | \ ˌsü-pər-ˈnü-mə-ˌrer-ē How to pronounce supernumerary (audio) , -ˈnyü-, -mə-rē; -ˈn(y)üm-rē \

Definition of supernumerary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : exceeding the usual, stated, or prescribed number a supernumerary tooth
b : not enumerated among the regular components of a group and especially of a military organization
2 : exceeding what is necessary, required, or desired
3 : more numerous


plural supernumeraries

Definition of supernumerary (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a supernumerary person or thing
2 : an actor employed to play a walk-on

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Synonyms for supernumerary

Synonyms: Adjective

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Did You Know?

Supernumerary starts off with the Latin prefix super-, "above". You may have heard of someone being born with supernumerary teeth, supernumerary fingers, or supernumerary toes. A supernumerary rainbow may show up as a faint line—red, green, or purple—just touching the main colored arc. Supernumerary is also a noun: A supernumerary is usually someone in a crowd scene onstage, otherwise known as an "extra" or a "spear-carrier".

Examples of supernumerary in a Sentence

Adjective a third, supernumerary witness to the signing of the will
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The number of companions is limited to 24, although supernumerary members do not count towards this total. Simon Perry,, "Kate Middleton Is Elegant in Black-and-White Look to Support Prince William at Order of the Garter," 17 June 2019 Because this mutation is often removed very early in life, there have been few chances to research what benefits being polydactyl may afford those with supernumerary fingers (SF). Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, "Study Shows There Are Surprising Benefits to Having an Extra Finger," 14 June 2019 Even the third tailpipe sticking out the back is unsettling, the sport-compact equivalent of a supernumerary nipple. WSJ, "2018 Honda Civic Type R: A Supercar for the Suburbs," 13 Dec. 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun One of West Hartford’s earlier patrol officers, Martin McCue, started as a part-time supernumerary in 1929 and became a full-time officer a year later. Don Stacom,, "A taste of Blue Bloods in West Hartford: Three generations of the McCue family play roles in police department’s first century," 12 Nov. 2020 As reported by ITV News, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and King Felipe VI of Spain are being invested as supernumerary, or Stranger Knights of the Garter by Queen Elizabeth in this year's ceremony. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Queen Invests King Felipe and King Willem-Alexander at Order of the Garter 2019," 17 June 2019 Aside from work and travel, Mrs. Gradet was an extra — or supernumerary — in several productions of the Baltimore Opera, along with her husband and children. Christina Tkacik,, "Barbara Levy Gradet, former director of Baltimore County’s Department of Social Services, dies," 20 May 2018 Broken into six-hour installments spaced out over two weeks, the hallucinatory concert extravaganza is being custom tailored, with local musicians, guest artists and glittery supernumeraries brought in for the occasion. Charles Mcnulty,, "Taylor Mac on gay history, 'Hamilton' and his epic 24-hour extravaganza at the Ace," 14 Mar. 2018 History will be merciless to them, but how much fun to watch them reduced to thunderstruck supernumeraries in real time. Frank Rich, Daily Intelligencer, "Frank Rich: Donald Trump’s ‘Independence’ Is a Complete Farce," 13 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'supernumerary.' 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 supernumerary


1605, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1639, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for supernumerary


Late Latin supernumerarius, from Latin super- + numerus number

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Time Traveler for supernumerary

Time Traveler

The first known use of supernumerary was in 1605

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Statistics for supernumerary

Cite this Entry

“Supernumerary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for supernumerary


su·​per·​nu·​mer·​ary | \ ˌsü-pər-ˈn(y)ü-mə-ˌrer-ē, -ˈn(y)üm-(ə-)rē How to pronounce supernumerary (audio) \

Medical Definition of supernumerary

: exceeding the usual or normal number supernumerary teeth a supernumerary rib

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