numero uno

[ noo-muh-roh -oo-noh, nyoo- ]
/ ˈnu məˌroʊ ˈu noʊ, ˈnyu- /

noun

adjective

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Origin of numero uno

Borrowed into English from Italian around 1970–75
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does numero uno mean?

Numero uno means number one and is used in most of the same ways that number one is used.

It’s commonly used to refer to oneself or one’s best interests, as in He always looks out for numero uno before even thinking of helping other people. 

It’s also commonly used to refer to someone or something that is the best or highest in rank. In this way, it can be used as both a noun (as in They’re numero uno, and there is no close second) and an adjective (as in We hold a national championship game because we want the nation’s numero uno team to be determine by a head-to-head matchup, not a ranking committee).

Numero uno comes from Italian, in which it literally means number one (the Spanish phrase número uno is pronounced the same way and means the same thing). Like many other Italian and Spanish words and phrases that have been adopted into English, it is often used in a very informal way to sound cool or to be humorous.

Example: She’s the GOAT, the best, numero uno—no one will ever rise to her level of greatness.

Where does numero uno come from?

The first records of the use of numero uno in English come from the 1970s. The phrase was borrowed into English from Italian, though many people, especially in the United States, might guess that it comes from the Spanish número uno. In any case, both the Italian and the Spanish version mean the same thing: “number one.”

When things are ranked first among others, they’re number one. This is often what numero uno means, but it’s usually only used in very informal contexts. For example, if you were referring to the number one priority for public healthcare, you probably wouldn’t use the term numero uno—unless you were trying to be a bit funny or intentionally informal.

If someone describes someone or something as numero uno, they’re really confident that it’s the greatest or the best, and by far. Someone can refer to themselves as numero uno in this way (in the kind of way that Muhammad Ali might have), but most of the time when someone refers to themself as numero uno, it means “myself.” This is especially used in the phrase look out for numero uno, meaning “to attend to oneself and one’s best interests.” (The phrase look out for number one is used in the exact same way.)

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What are some synonyms for numero uno?

What are some words that share a root or word element with numero uno

 

What are some words that often get used in discussing numero uno?

How is numero uno used in real life?

Numero uno is a fun way of calling something the first, best, or the greatest of all time.

 

 

Try using numero uno!

Which of the following words would be used to describe something considered numero uno?

A. first
B. best
C. greatest
D. all of the above