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cardinal number

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noun
  1. Also called cardinal numeral. any of the numbers that express amount, as one, two, three, etc. (distinguished from ordinal number).
  2. Also called potency, power. Mathematics. a number or symbol analogous to the number of elements in a finite set, being identical for two sets that can be placed into one-to-one correspondence: The cardinal number of the set a1, a2, … an is n.

Origin of cardinal number

First recorded in 1585–95
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for cardinal numbers

cardinal number

cardinal numeral

noun
  1. a number denoting quantity but not order in a setSometimes shortened to: cardinal
  2. maths logic
    1. a measure of the size of a set that does not take account of the order of its membersCompare natural number
    2. a particular number having this function
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for cardinal numbers

cardinal number

n.

1590s, "one, two, three," etc. as opposed to ordinal numbers "first, second, third," etc.; so called because they are the principal numbers and the ordinals depend on them (see cardinal (adj.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

cardinal numbers in Science

cardinal number

[kärdn-əl]
  1. A number, such as 3, 11, or 412, used in counting to indicate quantity but not order. Compare ordinal number.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

cardinal numbers in Culture

cardinal numbers

Numbers that indicate the quantity of things in a group or set, but not the order or arrangement of those things. One, two, and one thousand are cardinal numbers. (Compare ordinal numbers.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.