n. & v.
n. 1 a an arithmetical value representing a particular quantity and used in counting and making calculations. b a word, symbol, or figure representing this; a numeral. c an arithmetical value showing position in a series esp. for identification, reference, etc. (registration number). 2 (often foll. by of) the total count or aggregate (the number of accidents has decreased; twenty in number). 3 a the study of the behaviour of numbers; numerical reckoning (the laws of number). b (in pl.) arithmetic (not good at numbers). 4 a (in sing. or pl.) a quantity or amount; a total; a count (a large number of people; only in small numbers). b (in pl.) numerical preponderance (force of numbers; there is safety in numbers). 5 a a person or thing having a place in a series, esp. a single issue of a magazine, an item in a programme, etc. b a song, dance, musical item, etc. 6 company, collection, group (among our number). 7 Gram. a the classification of words by their singular or plural forms. b a particular such form. 8 colloq. a person or thing regarded familiarly or affectionately (usu. qualified in some way: an attractive little number). 9 (Numbers) the Old Testament book containing a census.
v.tr. 1 include (I number you among my friends). 2 assign a number or numbers to. 3 have or amount to (a specified number). 4 a count. b include. by numbers following simple instructions (as if) identified by numbers. one's days are numbered one does not have long to live. have a person's number colloq. understand a person's real motives, character, etc. have a person's number on it (of a bomb, bullet, etc.) be destined to hit a specified person. number cruncher Computing & Math. sl. a machine capable of complex calculations etc. number crunching the act or process of making these calculations. one's number is up colloq. one is finished or doomed to die. a number of some, several. °Use with a plural verb is now standard: a number of problems remain. number one n. colloq. oneself (always takes care of number one).
adj. most important (the number one priority). number-plate a plate on a vehicle displaying its registration number. numbers game 1 usu. derog. action involving only arithmetical work. 2 US a lottery based on the occurrence of unpredictable numbers in the results of races etc. Number Ten 10 Downing Street, the official London home of the British Prime Minister. number two a second in command. without number innumerable.
[ ME f. OF nombre (n.), nombrer (v.) f. L numerus, numerare ]