A Dozen Nonnumerical Words for Quantities

By Mark Nichol

The English language has, well, a number of words that denote specific or approximate quantities that are themselves not numbers. This post lists and defines a dozen of those words.

1. brace: two, in reference to identical objects

2. century: primarily denotes 100 years, but occasionally used, especially in the context of competitive racing, to refer to something consisting of 100, as in a 100-mile race

3. couple: two, though loosely refers to a few of something

4. decade: primarily denotes 10 years, but occasionally refers to ten of something

5. dozen: twelve (a half dozen, or half a dozen, is six, and a baker’s dozen is thirteen, from the notion that a baker would include an extra item in a batch of twelve so as not to be accused of short-changing a customer)

6. duo: two, in reference to people engaged in an endeavor together, as in musical performance (other words denote three or more people in the same context: trio, quartet, etc.)

7. grand: slang for “1,000”

8. gross: 144, or twelve dozen

9. large: slang for “1,000”

10. myriad: originally, ten thousand, but now loosely refers to a very large quantity

11. pair: two, often in reference to identical objects

12. score: twenty

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15 Responses to “A Dozen Nonnumerical Words for Quantities”

  • D.A.W.

    In the Ancient Roman Army, a “centurion” was an officer in charge of 100 men, simply, and so all other meanings derive from that one. Thus, a centurion was similar to a platoon lieutenant.
    Furthermore, the word “mile” is derived from a Roman phrase meaning “1,000 paces”. Since that amounts to 5.28 feet per pace, and those Romans were not Goliath or Ajax, you need to known that in Latin, a “pace” was one with the left foot and one with the right. This reduces down to about 2.6 feet per single pace, and this is reasonable for the rather short, average Roman soldier.

  • D.A.W.

    So, be careful of highways with names like “Century Boulevard”, the “Century Freeway”, the “Century Highway”, etc. They probably do not have anything to do with 20th Century Fox, the 19th Century, or the 21st Century, but rather just the number 100.

  • D.A.W.

    In the City of Los Angeles and in Los Angeles County, the east-west streets are numbered with the lowest numbers in the north (in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountain), and the numbers increase going southwards. Long ago, they got to the number 100, and they decided to make that one a magnificent one, running for a long way from west to east. (Where does it end?) That one is named Century Boulevard, a special name.
    In Los Angeles, the biggest and the best of such thoroughfares are called “Boulevards”, with names like these {Wilshire, Santa Monica, Hollywood, Sunset, Sepulveda, Olympic, Artesia, Century, Colorado, Crenshaw, El Segundo, Foothill, Hawthorne, La Cienaga, Van Nuys, Ventura, Victory}.
    A few of these, I had to mention, because I used to work close to the corner of El Segundo Blvd. and Sepulveda Blvd.,
    and I lived two places: one near Hawthorne Blvd., and the other near Van Nuys Blvd.
    Sepulveda Blvd. (and its tunnel) is noted as the scene of many movies, including “Back to the Future, Part II”, and Van Nuys Blvd. is noted as the scene of several “cruising” movies like “American Graffiti”.

  • D.A.W.

    {nonnative, nonnegative, nonnominative, nonnumerical, nonparallel, nonreal, nonstationary, nontangible, nonurban, nonverbal}. Don’t use hyphens in any of these, no matter what any dumb “spellcheckers” might say. They all have serious flaws in them.
    As Mr. Spock said on Vulcan, “Nothing nonreal exists.”

  • D.A.W.

    “I was walking down a street in San Francisco, and the next thing I knew, there appeared a (gang, pack, squad, troop, troupe) of weirdoes.” Choose your noun, but they all mean about the same thing. By the way, they were all dressed loosely as characters from “Star Wars”.
    It is all about approximation.

  • D.A.W.

    “I saw a score of Klingons outside the United Nations Building in New York City,” is an approximation. The actual number might be 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, or thereabouts. Likewise for a pack, troop, troupe, platoon, or company — or of Imperial Storm Troopers.

  • D.A.W.

    No, venqax. Quoting from the article: “denote specific or approximate quantities”, and “ten thousand, but now loosely refers to a very large quantity”, and “two, though loosely refers to a few of something”.
    Therefore, these words all mean about the same thing: myriad, multitude, mob, horde. “Too large a number to be easily counted.”

  • venqax

    I think the theme is non-numerical terms that do infer specific numbers. So pack, troop, group, horde, mob etc. would not make the list. Pair, couple, trio, dozen, etc., do.

    I would guess that, quite often, when someone says, “The dogs flushed a brace of pigeons from the bushes,” that exactly two is not what he means. But, point being, it SHOULD be. If he means a “bunch” of birds, then he is misusing the term “brace.” People use words incorrectly all the time. It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) alter the meaning of the word.

  • D.A.W.

    Let’s bring these up to date:
    A pack of Romulans, a brace of Denebian slime eels, a gross of Klingons, a horde of tribbles….

  • D.A.W.

    Here is one that is positively Biblical, especially in the King James translation: “Multitude”.
    A multitude of Hebrews in the Exodus.
    A multitude of Philistines, lead by Goliath.
    Jesus preached to the multitudes.

  • D.A.W.

    A “horde” – a horde of Mongols, a horde of Huns, a horde of barbarians, a horde of Vikings, a horde of locusts. “A horde of Vandals sacked the capital city.”

  • D.A.W.

    There is a prefix in measurements that has fallen out of use:
    “myria”. One myriameter = 10,000 meters, exactly.
    Most people would rather say “10 kilometers”.

  • D.A.W.

    A very nice one-day bicycle ride in good weather over good terrain: a “metric century ride”: 100 kilometers.

  • D.A.W.

    A “pack”: The man and woman were attacked/accosted by a pack of thieves, hooligans, hoodlums, scoundrels, ne’er do wells,…

  • D.A.W.

    Are you sure that in the sentence, “The dogs flushed a brace of pigeons from the bushes,” that exactly two is meant?

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