Green’s Dictionary of Slang

number n.

1. of an individual or individuals.

(a) [mid-9C+] a person; often used of a young woman, usu. in a sexual context; esp. as hot number

(b) [1930s+] a person, in a non-sexual context.

(c) [1960s+] (US gay) a potential or actual partner for casual sex, picked up from the street, bar or baths.

(d) [1970s+] (US) a romantically involved couple.

2. [late 19C+] an item of clothing, e.g. a dainty pink number.

3. in fig./abstract senses.

(a) [20C+] in general, a thing, place or situation, defined by context.

(b) [20C+] a scene or performance in a fig. sense, a display of excessive emotion.

(c) [1910s+] a job or task; esp. in phr. cushy (little) number, an easy job.

(d) [1920s] belief, commitment.

(e) [1930s–50s] (US black) a jail sentence, a life sentence.

(a) one’s house [a number on a door].

5. [1950s] a reputation.

6. [1960s+] (drugs) a marijuana or hashish cigarette.

7. [1970s+] a style, a way of living, a pose, e.g. the ageing rocker number.

In phrases

do a number (v.) [1960s+] (drugs)

1. to make and smoke a marijuana or hashish cigarette.

2. of cannabis, to take effect.

do a number on (v.)

1. [1960s+] to make a fuss, to become emotional; to subject someone to emotional blackmail or at least some form of moral, friendship or ethical pressure.

2. to harm.

3. [1970s+] to manipulate emotionally, esp. through sexuality; to cheat, confuse or deceive someone.

4. [1970s+] to flirt, to entice someone with sexual behaviour.

5. [1970s+] to have sexual intercourse.

6. [1970s+] to beat savagely.

7. [1980s] (US) to get married.

8. [1990s+] to break, to cause harm (other than through deliberate, person-to-person violence).

9. to hurt severely.

have someone’s number (v.) (also get someone’s number)(orig. US)

1. [mid-19C+] to understand another person absolutely, despite all their possible evasions and excuses.

2. to know something disadvantageous about; to place someone in a difficult position.

heavy number (n.) [heavy adj. (5c)]

[1970s+] anything or anyone seen as serious, important etc.

hot number (n.) [hot adj. (1c) + pun on telephone number]

[late 19C+] a sexually attractive woman or in gay use man, also her or his telephone number, esp. if written on the wall of a phone booth.

kill a number (v.)

[1990s+] (US prison) to finish one’s sentence.

know someone’s number (v.)

[1910s+] to understand another person, to assess a situation.

number is up (also number comes up, put up, ...turns up)

1. [late 19C+] a phr. meaning that one dies.

2. [20C+] a phr. meaning that one is in trouble or has reached a point from which one cannot escape.

on the numbers

[1990s+] (UK prison) voluntary solitary confinement for the sake of a prisoner’s safety; child molesters, rapists etc. choose this in preference to the natural justice of their peers.

pull a number (v.) [1970s+] (orig. US)

1. to trick, to deceive.

2. with a n., to act in a given manner, usu. in order to deceive.

roll a number (v.)

[1960s+] (drugs) to prepare a marijuana cigarette; thus rolled number n.

soft number (n.) [soft adj. (4)]

[1910s+] (orig. milit.) an easy job.

SE in slang uses

As specific numbers

In compounds

[numbers written out or in digits as found in source material] number 8 (n.) [H is the eighth letter of the alphabet]

[1950s+] (US drugs) heroin.

number eight (n.)

[1980s+] (N.Z.) the best; the strongest; the most likely to succeed.

number 9 (n.)

[early–mid-19C] the Fleet prison, situated at 9 Fleet Market, London.

number one

see separate entries.

number one thousand (adj.) [pidgin, imported by veterans of the Vietnam War]

[1970s+] (US) very bad (cf. number ten thou adj.).

number seven (n.)

[late 19C] (US short order) a steak.

number six (n.)

1. [mid–late 19C] a lock of hair shaped like the figure 6 and twisted from the temple back towards the ear.

2. [early–mid-19C] (US, also number 6) Thomson’s Compound Tincture of Myrrh and Capsicum, a popular household remedy [it was regularly listed as the sixth medicine in the firm’s catalogue].

number ten

see separate entries.

number 13 (n.) [M is the 13th letter of the alphabet]

[1950s] (drugs) morphine.

number 3 (n.) [C is the third letter of the alphabet]

[1950s+] (drugs) cocaine.

number three (n.) [on model of number one n. (4a), number two n. (1), although in adult use]

[20C+] masturbation, whether by oneself, a partner, or as ‘executive relief’ i.e. from a ‘masseuse’ or prostitute.

number two (n.)

see separate entry.

General uses

number-chaser (n.)

[1930s] (US) an accountant.

number-cruncher (n.) [computer jargon number-cruncher, a large, sometimes slow machine which is used for calculations that would defeat, by quantity rather than complexity, mere human efforts] [1970s+] (US)

an accountant or statistician.

number nip (n.) [? SE number, a thing + nip; i.e. the image of the vagina as ‘biting’ the male]

[19C] the vagina.

In phrases

when the numbers are up (also when the numbers go up) [the raising of a board carrying the numbers of the winning horses after a horserace]

[late 19C+] (Aus.) when the result is known.