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From the Late Latin supernumerarius (excessively high in number), from super (above; beyond) + numerum, accusative of numerus (number).


supernumerary (plural supernumeraries)

  1. (civil designation) Somebody who works in a group, association or public office, without forming part of the regular staff; those distinguished from numerary.
    The judge was a supernumerary, helping the regular judges whenever there was a surplus amount of work.
  2. An extra or walk-on in a film or play; spear-carrier.
  3. An animal which has not formed a pair bond and is therefore single.
    • 1992, Sarah Anne Sloane, Supernumeraries at bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) nests (page 50)
    • 2004, Walter D. Koenig, Janis L. Dickinson, Ecology and Evolution of Cooperative Breeding in Birds, Cambridge University Press →ISBN, page 88
      There are differences in the composition of the social group such as whether one or more sex provides help, and the stability of the associations between supernumeraries and the dominant breeders.
    • 2005, William Donald Hamilton, Narrow Roads of Gene Land: Volume 1: Evolution of Social Behaviour, Oxford University Press on Demand →ISBN, page 278
      The best evidence so far that social supernumeraries are physically capable of bettering their lot concerns not rodents but birds.



supernumerary (not comparable)

  1. Extra; beyond the standard or prescribed amount or number.
    • 1948: Aldous Huxley, Ape and Essence, page 74: 1949 “Chatto & Windus” edition; 1972 “Harper & Row” edition
      Over close-ups of little faces with hare lips, little trunks with stumps instead of legs and arms, little hands with clusters of supernumerary fingers, little bodies adorned with a double row of nipples, we hear the voice of the Narrator.
  2. Greater in number than.
  3. Beyond what is necessary.



The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.

Further reading[edit]