American English

Definition of number noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1[countable] a word or symbol that represents an amount or a quantity synonym figure Think of a number and multiply it by two. a high/low number even numbers (= 2, 4, 6, etc.) odd numbers (= 1, 3, 5, etc.) You owe me 27 dollars? Make it 30, that's a nice round number. see also cardinal number, ordinal, prime number, whole number
  2. position in series
  3. 2[countable] (abbreviation No.) (symbol #) used before a figure to show the position of something in a series They live at number 26. The song reached number 5 on the charts.
  4. telephone, etc.
  5. 3[countable] (often in compounds) a number used to identify something or communicate by telephone, fax, etc. My phone number is 266-9982. I'm sorry, I think you have the wrong number (= wrong telephone number). He dialed the number, then changed his mind and hung up. What is your account number, please? see also box number, license number, PIN, serial number
  6. quantity
  7. 4[countable] number (of somebody/something) a quantity of people or things A large number of people have applied for the job. The number of homeless people has increased dramatically. Huge numbers of (= very many) animals have died. A number of (= some) problems have arisen. I could give you any number of (= a lot of) reasons for not going. We were eight in number (= there were eight of us). Nurses are leaving the profession in increasing numbers. Sheer weight of numbers (= the large number of soldiers) secured them victory in the battle. The course will have to be repeated due to pressure of numbers (= too many students). staff/student numbers A plural verb is needed after a/an (large, small, etc.) number of…
  8. information
  9. 5the numbers [plural] information that is given in the form of numbers Tell Tommy to run the numbers for the annual report.
  10. song/dance
  11. 6[countable] a song or dance, especially one of several in a performance They sang a slow romantic number.
  12. thing admired
  13. 7[singular] (informal) (following one or more adjectives) a thing, such as a dress or a car, that is admired She was wearing a black velvet number.
  14. group of people
  15. 8[singular] (formal) a group or quantity of people one of our number (= one of us) The congressman's proposal is supported by his number.
  16. grammar
  17. 9[uncountable] the form of a word, showing whether one or more than one person or thing is being talked about The word “men” is plural in number. The subject of a sentence and its verb must agree in number.
  18. Idioms following a set of simple instructions identified by numbers painting by numbers
    by the numbers
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    following closely the accepted rules for doing something
    do a number on somebody/something (informal)
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    to hurt someone or damage something, either emotionally or physically The divorce really did a number on her ability to trust people.
    have (got) somebody's number (informal)
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    to know what someone is really like and what they plan to do He thinks he can fool me, but I've got his number.
    your number is up (informal)
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    the time has come when you will die or lose everything
    numbers game
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    a way of considering an activity, etc. that is concerned only with the number of people doing something, things achieved, etc., not with who or what they are Candidates were playing the numbers game as the crucial vote drew closer.
    your opposite number
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    a person who does the same job as you in another organization The Secretary of State is currently having talks with her opposite number in the British Government.
    there's safety in numbers (saying)
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    being in a group makes you safer and makes you feel more confident
    weight of numbers
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    the combined power, strength, or influence of a group They won the argument by sheer weight of numbers.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: number