Meaning of NUMBER in English

I. num·ber 1 S1 W1 /ˈnʌmbə $ -bər/ BrE AmE noun

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ number , ↑ numeral , ↑ numeracy , ↑ numerator , ↑ innumeracy ; adjective : ↑ innumerable , ↑ numerical , ↑ numerous , ↑ numerate ≠ ↑ innumerate ; verb : ↑ number , ↑ outnumber ; adverb : ↑ numerically ]

[ Date: 1200-1300 ; Language: Old French ; Origin: nombre , from Latin numerus ]

1 . NUMBER [countable] a word or sign that represents an exact amount or quantity ⇨ numeral , figure :

They wrote various numbers on a large sheet of paper.

Add all the numbers together.

an even number (=2, 4, 6, 8 etc)

an odd number (=1, 3, 5, 7 etc)

a round number (=one ending in 0)

A hundred pounds is a good round number.

I’m no good with numbers.

2 . PHONE [countable] a phone number:

My new number is 502–6155.

sb’s home/office/work number

I gave him my home number.

mobile/fax number

What’s your mobile number?

Sorry, you have the wrong number.

3 . IN A SET/LIST [countable] a number used to show the position of something in an ordered set or list:

Answer question number 4.

a number 17 bus

⇨ ↑ E number , ↑ No. 10 , ↑ number one 1

4 . FOR RECOGNIZING SOMEBODY/SOMETHING [countable] a set of numbers used to name or recognize someone or something

model/account etc number

What is your account number, please?

Press 1 to change the printer number.

Did you get the number (=↑ registration number) of the car? British English

⇨ ↑ box number , ↑ PIN number , ↑ serial number

5 . AMOUNT [uncountable and countable] an amount of something that can be counted SYN quantity

the number of something

The number of cars on our roads rose dramatically last year.

a number of something

We have been friends for a number of years.

in number

The condors have dwindled to an estimated sixty in number.


Use a singular verb after the number of :

The number of farmers is decreasing.

You are talking about the size of the group.

Use a plural verb after a number of :

A number of options were suggested.

You are referring to the group.

6 . numbers [plural] how many people there are, especially people attending an event or doing an activity together:

Can you give me some idea of numbers?

student/client etc numbers

Visitor numbers increase in the summer.

The sheer weight of numbers (=large number of people) on stage made the performance more impressive.

7 . MUSIC [countable] a piece of popular music that forms part of a longer performance:

Madonna sang several numbers from her latest album.

⇨ ↑ production number

8 . MAGAZINE [countable] British English a copy of a magazine or newspaper printed on a particular date SYN issue

number of

I was reading the latest number of ‘Surfing’.

back numbers (=old copies) of ‘The Times’

9 . have sb’s number informal to understand something about someone that helps you deal with them:

Judy had always had his number.

10 . black/elegant etc (little) number informal a black, ↑ elegant etc dress or suit, especially a woman’s:

She was wearing a chic little number.

11 . sb’s number comes up someone has the winning number in a competition

12 . sb’s number is up ( also sb’s number has come up ) informal

a) used to say that someone will stop being lucky or successful

b) used to say that someone will die – used humorously:

She told her husband she didn’t mind going when her number was up.

13 . the numbers

a) information about something that is shown using numbers:

Chris, have you got the numbers yet?

b) an illegal game in the US in which people risk money on the appearance of a combination of numbers in a newspaper:

playing the numbers

14 . by numbers if you do something by numbers, you do it in a basic way by following a set of simple instructions – used to show disapproval:

The last thing we want is teaching by numbers.

15 . do a number on somebody/something informal to hurt or damage someone or something badly:

Tod really did a number on the old house. I don’t envy the new tenants.

16 . beyond/without number literary if things are beyond number, there are so many of them that no one could count them all

17 . GROUP OF PEOPLE [uncountable] formal a group of people

one/two/several etc of our/their number

Only three of our number could speak Italian.

They wanted to choose a leader from among their own number.

18 . GRAMMAR [uncountable] technical the form of a word, depending on whether one thing or more than one thing is being talked about:

‘Horses’ is plural in number, while ‘horse’ is singular.

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 1)

■ adjectives

▪ a lucky number (=a number you think gives you good luck)

Three is my lucky number.

▪ an even number (=2, 4, 6, 8 etc)

All even numbers can be divided by 2.

▪ an odd number (=1, 3, 5, 7 etc)

You can’t work in pairs if you’ve got an odd number of people.

▪ a round number (=a number ending in zero)

A hundred is a nice round number.

▪ a positive number (=a number that is more than zero)

Maths is easier if you are dealing with positive numbers.

▪ a negative/minus number (=a number that is less than zero)

Can a negative number have a square root?

▪ a prime number (=a number such as 13 that can be divided only by itself and 1)

After 7, what is the next prime number?

▪ a cardinal number (=a number such as 1, 2, or 3 that shows how many of something there are)

Numbers go on to infinity, so there is no last cardinal number.

▪ an ordinal number (=a number such as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd that shows where something comes in a series or list)

The children learn about position and ordinal numbers when they stand in a line.

▪ a whole number (=a number that is not a fraction)

■ verbs

▪ add numbers together

Add the two numbers together and divide by three.

▪ add up numbers (=add several numbers together)

Write all the numbers down, then add them up.

▪ subtract one number from another

Subtract this number from the total.

▪ multiply one number by another

What happens if you multiply a postive number by a negative number?

▪ divide one number by another

You can’t divide a prime number by any other number, except 1.

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 5)

■ adjectives

▪ a large/great number

A large number of children were running around in the playground.

▪ a vast/huge number (=very large)

We’ve had a huge number of complaints.

▪ a high number

There seems to be no reason for the high number of suicides.

▪ a considerable/substantial/significant number (=quite a large number)

He received a substantial number of votes.


A considerable number of students left after the first year.

▪ a good number (=quite a lot)

He has written a good number of books for children.

▪ a small number

The class had only a small number of students.

▪ a low number

the low numbers of women involved in sports coaching

▪ a limited number (=quite small)

A limited number of copies were printed.

▪ a tiny number (=very small)

Only a tiny number of these animals remain in the wild.

▪ a growing/increasing number

An increasing number of women are entering the profession.

■ verbs

▪ increase the number of something

As you improve, increase the number of times you do each exercise.

▪ reduce the number of something

We need to reduce the number of cars on the road.

▪ a number increases/goes up/grows/rises

The number of mobile phones has increased dramatically.

▪ a number doubles (=becomes twice as big)

The number of road accidents has doubled in the last ten years.

▪ a number falls/drops/goes down/decreases/declines

The number of new houses being built is falling steadily.

▪ a number halves (=becomes twice as small)

The number of children failing at school has halved in recent years.

■ phrases

▪ in large/increasing/limited etc numbers

Birds nest here in large numbers.

▪ any number of something (=a very large number of them)

There have been any number of magazine articles about the celebrity couple.

▪ bring the number to 25, 120 etc

This will bring the number of jobs lost at the company to 85.


► Do not say 'a big number of people/things’ . Say a large number of people/things .

II. number 2 BrE AmE verb

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ number , ↑ numeral , ↑ numeracy , ↑ numerator , ↑ innumeracy ; adjective : ↑ innumerable , ↑ numerical , ↑ numerous , ↑ numerate ≠ ↑ innumerate ; verb : ↑ number , ↑ outnumber ; adverb : ↑ numerically ]

1 . [transitive] to give a number to something that is part of an ordered set or list:

They haven’t numbered the pages of the report.

All the seats in the theatre are numbered.

Each check is numbered consecutively.

a numbering system

number something (from) 1 to 10/100 etc

Number the questions 1 to 25.

2 . [linking verb] if people or things number a particular amount, that is how many there are:

The population of the town numbered about 5,000.

The men on strike now number 5% of the workforce.

3 . sb’s/sth’s days are numbered used to say that someone or something cannot live or continue for much longer:

I knew my days were numbered at that firm.

4 . number among something/be numbered among something formal to be included as one of a particular group:

He was a successful corporate lawyer who numbered among his clients JPMorgan and Standard Oil.

5 . [transitive] literary to count something:

Who can number the stars?

number off phrasal verb British English

if soldiers number off, each one calls out their number when their turn comes SYN count off American English

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.