Definition of supernumerary in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˌso͞opərˈn(y)o͞oməˌrerē/


1Present in excess of the normal or requisite number, in particular.
1.1(Of a person) not belonging to a regular staff but engaged for extra work.
Example sentences
  • Many of these men were drawn from among the ranks of principal and supernumerary soldiers serving in guard units of the Northern Metropolitan Area, a pool of men with a modicum of military training and ready access to the weapons of the day.
  • As the number of supernumerary troops in the garrisons grew, many were put to work on the agricultural colonies, becoming servants and construction laborers, or pressed into active military service.
  • Consider, for example, the mid-fifteenth century case of Duan Gang, a supernumerary soldier from a guard unit attached to an imperial prince who resided in Luzhou, Shanxi Province.
1.2Not wanted or needed; redundant: books were obviously supernumerary, and he began jettisoning them
1.3 Botany & Zoology Denoting a structure or organ occurring in addition to the normal ones: a pair of supernumerary teats
More example sentences
  • The most common variation of the lungs is the presence of supernumerary fissures.
  • Most frequently seen are supernumerary nipples anywhere along the primitive milk line, though true accessory mammary glands are most frequently located in the axilla (polymastia).
  • Various cases of supernumerary testicles have been reported during operations or in physical examination (without histological proof, however).
1.4(Of an actor) appearing on stage but not speaking.

noun (plural supernumeraries)

A supernumerary person or thing.
Example sentences
  • They were there merely as props, as so many supernumeraries in his private psychodrama.
  • Although public indignation at the burgeoning Civil List led to some drastic pruning, the Royal supernumeraries continued to live high on the hog.
  • The rest of the cast are really supernumeraries; other ranks, captured German soldiers, etc although, again, they are well played and convincing in what they are called upon to do.


Early 17th century: from late Latin supernumerarius '(soldier) added to a legion after it is complete', from Latin super numerum 'beyond the number'.

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