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The success of the Android platform is being driven by the sheer number of hardware vendors supporting it at both the high and low ends of the market

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did you look in a dictionary? – tenfour Mar 25 '11 at 12:56
@tenfour: The asker seeks the meaning of the word in a very specific context, one in which the dictionary may not have been completely elucidatory. Plus, we do not know the asker's level of comfort with the language. So, let's show some love :) – Jimi Oke Mar 26 '11 at 17:37
up vote 8 down vote accepted

It means in this case

sheer - complete and without restriction or qualification; sometimes used informally as intensifier

More here.

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To me it also has a hint of exclusivity: it is the number of vendors, not their quality, variety or anything else about them. – Colin Fine Mar 25 '11 at 14:21

In this case it basically means "large" or "overwhelming". The usage is somewhat idiomatic; sheer is often used in the place of "complete" or "unadulterated", and, from that correct usage it's sort of slid into an all purpose adjective to indicate scale.

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sheer number means "a great number of". every word has a main meaning but many words have "side-meanings". for example when you look up the meaning of "administration" in the dictionary and try to translate "drug administration" you can translate it in a wrong manner. you should consider the "side-meaning" of "administration". Here, the original meaning of "sheer" is not enough to understand the meaning of the sentence. You should consider the side meaning and then you understand that "sheer number" means "a great number of"...

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"Sheer" does not mean "great." In the "sheer number" context here under discussion, the word serves to emphasize that it is the number, not the nature of the vendors, that is to be considered. Consider this: The sheer number (zero) of complaints about extra terrestrials using the laundry argues against alien invasion. – Michael Owen Sartin Nov 16 '13 at 21:38

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