- a considerable amount or quantity; many: Numbers flocked to the city to see the parade.
- metrical feet; verse.
- musical periods, measures, or groups of notes.
- numbers pool(def 1).
- Informal. the figures representing the actual cost, expense, profit, etc.: We won't make a decision until we see the numbers.
- Obsolete. arithmetic.
verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
- number cruncher,
- number crunching,
- number eight wire,
- number is up, one's,
- number line
- according to standard procedure, rules, customs, etc.; orthodoxly; by the book: We're going to run things here by the numbers.
- together or in unison to a called-out count: calisthenics by the numbers.
- to undermine, defeat, humiliate, or criticize thoroughly: The committee really did a number on the mayor's proposal.
- to discuss or discourse about, especially in an entertaining way: She could do a number on anything from dentistry to the Bomb.
- to give a performance; perform: It's time for you to get on stage and do your number.
- Slang. to behave in a predictable or customary manner: Whenever I call, he does his number about being too busy to talk.
- one is (was, will be) in serious trouble.
- one is (was, will be) on the point of death: Convinced that her number was up anyway, she refused to see doctors.
Origin of number
- a self-contained piece of pop or jazz music
- a self-contained part of an opera or other musical score, esp one for the stage
verb (mainly tr)
Word Origin for number
c.1300, "to count," from Old French nombrer "to count, reckon," from nombre (n.) "number" (see number (n.)). Meaning "to assign a number to" is late 14c.; that of "to ascertain the number of" is from early 15c. Related: Numbered; numbering.
c.1300, "sum, aggregate of a collection," from Anglo-French noumbre, Old French nombre and directly from Latin numerus "a number, quantity," from PIE root *nem- "to divide, distribute, allot" (related to Greek nemein "to deal out;" see nemesis). Meaning "symbol or figure of arithmatic value" is from late 14c. Meaning "single (numbered) issue of a magazine" is from 1795. The meaning "musical selection" (1885) is from vaudeville theater programs, where acts were marked by a number. Meaning "dialing combination to reach a particular telephone receiver" is from 1879; hence wrong number (1886).
Number one "oneself" is from 1704 (mock-Italian form numero uno attested from 1973); the biblical Book of Numbers (c.1400, Latin Numeri, Greek Arithmoi) so called because it begins with a census of the Israelites. Slang number one and number two for "urination" and "defecation" attested from 1902. Number cruncher is 1966, of machines; 1971, of persons. To get or have (someone's) number "have someone figured out" is attested from 1853. The numbers "illegal lottery" is from 1897, American English.
get someone's number
Also, have someone's number. Determine or know one's real character or motives, as in You can't fool Jane; she's got your number. This expression uses number in the sense of “a precise appraisal.” Charles Dickens had it in Bleak House (1853): “Whenever a person proclaims to you, 'In worldly matters I'm a child,' ... that person is only crying off from being held accountable ... and you have got that person's number.” [Mid-1800s]
In addition to the idiom beginning with number
- number is up, one's
- a number of
- any number of
- back number
- by the numbers
- crunch numbers
- days are numbered
- do a job (number) on
- get (have) someone's number
- hot number
- in round numbers
- look out for (number one)
- opposite number
- safety in numbers