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[sev-uh n] /ˈsɛv ən/
a cardinal number, 6 plus 1.
a symbol for this number, as 7 or VII.
a set of this many persons or things.
a playing card with seven pips.
sevens, (used with a singular verb) fan-tan (def 1).
amounting to seven in number.
Verb phrases
seven out. crap2 (def 3a).
Origin of seven
before 900; Middle English seoven(e), seofne, seven, Old English seofon; cognate with German sieben, Gothic sibun; akin to Old Irish secht, Welsh saith, Latin septem, Greek heptá, Polish siedem, Sanskrit saptá


[fan-tan] /ˈfænˌtæn/
Also, fan tan. Also called parliament, sevens. Cards. a game in which the players play their sevens and other cards forming sequences in the same suits as their sevens, the winner being the player who first runs out of cards.
a Chinese gambling game in which a pile of coins, counters, or objects is placed under a bowl and bets are made on what the remainder will be after they have been counted off in fours.
1875-80; < Chinese fān tān literally, repeated divisions, or < cognate dial. forms Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for sevens
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "I see the sevens," a fat-faced man across the table said around his cigar.

    Card Trick Walter Bupp AKA Randall Garrett
  • I know if the We Are sevens were here they would send heaps of love.

    Blue Bonnet in Boston Caroline E. Jacobs
  • And as for herself, all the family affairs were at sixes and sevens, as you may suppose, during the French occupation.

    Perlycross R. D. Blackmore
  • The high tension of the We Are sevens relaxed for a brief second.

    Blue Bonnet in Boston Caroline E. Jacobs
  • Here's the town at sixes and sevens about the 'little brown brother.'

    Port O' Gold Louis John Stellman
  • Even the We Are sevens seemed remote and indistinct in her tired brain.

    Blue Bonnet in Boston Caroline E. Jacobs
  • It has always been out of joint, a great slipshod Leviathan, at sixes and sevens, invertebrate and fungus-brained.

    The World of H.G. Wells Van Wyck Brooks
  • I want the boys and the We are sevens on the little rustic bridge.

  • Four sevens make twenty-eight—why not put down four sevens—that was easy!

    A Gunner Aboard the "Yankee" Russell Doubleday
British Dictionary definitions for sevens


(functioning as sing) a Rugby Union match or series of matches played with seven players on each side


a Chinese gambling game in which a random number of counters are placed under a bowl and wagers laid on how many will remain after they have been divided by four
a card game played in sequence, the winner being the first to use up all his or her cards
Word Origin
C19: from Chinese (Cantonese) fan t'an repeated divisions, from fan times + t'an division


the cardinal number that is the sum of six and one and is a prime number See also number (sense 1)
a numeral, 7, VII, etc, representing this number
the amount or quantity that is one greater than six
anything representing, represented by, or consisting of seven units, such as a playing card with seven symbols on it
Also called seven o'clock. seven hours after noon or midnight
  1. amounting to seven: seven swans a-swimming
  2. (as pronoun): you've eaten seven already, related prefixes hepta- septi-
See also sevens
Word Origin
Old English seofon; related to Gothic sibun, German sieben, Old Norse sjau, Latin septem, Greek hepta, Sanskrit saptá
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
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Word Origin and History for sevens



Old English seofon, from Proto-Germanic *sebun (cf. Old Saxon sibun, Old Norse sjau, Swedish sju, Danish syv, Old Frisian sowen, siugun, Middle Dutch seven, Dutch zeven, Old High German sibun, German sieben, Gothic sibun), from PIE *septm "seven" (cf. Sanskrit sapta, Avestan hapta, Hittite shipta, Greek hepta, Latin septem, Old Church Slavonic sedmi, Lithuanian septyni, Old Irish secht, Welsh saith).

Long regarded as a number of perfection (e.g. seven wonders; seven sleepers, the latter translating Latin septem dormientes; seven against Thebes, etc.), but that notion is late in Old English and in German a nasty, troublesome woman could be eine böse Sieben "an evil seven" (1662).

Magical power or healing skill associated since 16c. with the seventh son ["The seuenth Male Chyld by iust order (neuer a Gyrle or Wench being borne betweene)," Thomas Lupton, "A Thousand Notable Things," 1579]. The typical number for "very great, strong," e.g. seven-league boots in the fairy story of Hop o'my Thumb. The Seven Years' War (1756-63) is also the Third Silesian War.

The Seven Stars (Old English sibunsterri), usually refers to the Pleiades, though in 15c. and after this name occasionally was given to the Big Dipper (which also has seven stars), or the seven planets of classical astronomy. Popular as a tavern sign, it might also (with six in a circle, one in the center) be a Masonic symbol.

FOOL: ... The reason why the
seven stars are no more than seven is a pretty reason.
LEAR: Because they are not eight?
FOOL: Yes, indeed: thou wouldst make a good fool.
["King Lear," Act I, Scene V]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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sevens in the Bible

This number occurs frequently in Scripture, and in such connections as lead to the supposition that it has some typical meaning. On the seventh day God rested, and hallowed it (Gen. 2:2, 3). The division of time into weeks of seven days each accounts for many instances of the occurrence of this number. This number has been called the symbol of perfection, and also the symbol of rest. "Jacob's seven years' service to Laban; Pharaoh's seven fat oxen and seven lean ones; the seven branches of the golden candlestick; the seven trumpets and the seven priests who sounded them; the seven days' siege of Jericho; the seven churches, seven spirits, seven stars, seven seals, seven vials, and many others, sufficiently prove the importance of this sacred number" (see Lev. 25:4; 1 Sam. 2:5; Ps. 12:6; 79:12; Prov. 26:16; Isa. 4:1; Matt. 18:21, 22; Luke 17:4). The feast of Passover (Ex. 12:15, 16), the feast of Weeks (Deut. 16:9), of Tabernacles (13:15), and the Jubilee (Lev. 25:8), were all ordered by seven. Seven is the number of sacrifice (2 Chr. 29:21; Job 42:8), of purification and consecration (Lev. 42:6, 17; 8:11, 33; 14:9, 51), of forgiveness (Matt. 18:21, 22; Luke 17:4), of reward (Deut. 28:7; 1 Sam. 2:5), and of punishment (Lev. 26:21, 24, 28; Deut. 28:25). It is used for any round number in such passages as Job 5:19; Prov. 26:16, 25; Isa. 4:1; Matt. 12:45. It is used also to mean "abundantly" (Gen. 4:15, 24; Lev. 26:24; Ps. 79:12).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with sevens
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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