General English

  • noun a sign that represents an amount
  • verb to give something a number


  • noun a quantity of things or people
  • noun a printed or written figure that identifies a particular thing
  • verb to put a figure on a document


  • noun an amount in figures


  • verb to assign digits to a list of items in an ordered manner


  • An arithmetic value utilized to represent a quantity, magnitude, order, rank, or the like.
  • A symbol utilized to represent a number (1).
  • A number (1) which serves for reference or identification.

Information & Library Science

  • verb to place the call number or the charging symbol on or in a book

Media Studies

  • noun one of a series of things, especially a single issue of a magazine


  • noun a marihuana cigarette, joint. A vogue term of the late 1960s originating in the USA and deriving from the use of number to mean item, piece or unit. The word remains in use among cannabis smokers.
  • noun an act of betrayal, a confidence trick, a scam. Most often heard in the phrase do a number on (someone): make a dupe of someone. Related is the phrase ‘to get someone’s number’: to see through someone’s deception.
  • noun a sexual partner. An unromantic term of the 1970s and 1980s denoting a casual or anonymous pick-up. (American author john Rechy published a novel with the title Numbers, dealing with gay liaisons, in 1970.).

Origin & History of “number”

The etymological notion underlying the word number is probably ‘distribution’. Its ultimate source, Latin numerus, may have been related to Greek némein ‘deal out, distribute’ (source of English nemesis and related to nomad). Numerus passed into Old French as nombre (subsequently borrowed by German as nummer), and English acquired it via Anglo-Norman numbre. Derivatives of Latin numerus to have reached English include enumerate (17th c.), numeral (16th c.), numerate (20th c.), numerical (17th c.), and numerous (16th c.).