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The question "What does the term “86'd” relate to?" made me wonder what similar cases we have in English. I'd like to know some other numbers that have a commonly understood meaning beyond their use as a mere number.

I have seen "666" used many times with a special meaning. It is written on fences, and used in US movies like "The Exorcism of Emily Rose": I believed that its meaning is commonly known. However, I was bewildered by an answer contending that the meaning of "666" was unknown. Is 666 commonly understood?

(For example, in Russian, the number 7 symbolises luck, if anyone knows any Russian.)

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    The reason why this was made a CW is that long, non-exhaustive lists of examples of a certain phenomenon are a prime candidate for being edited by other users. Together they can create a more complete and readable compendium. Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 17:44
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    This question was made CW because it is asking for a list of things, rather than a specific answer.
    – Kosmonaut
    Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 17:45
  • I suggest one entry for one number.
    – user3812
    Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 18:33

8 Answers 8

7

Some that come to mind:

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7
  • 7 is also generally considered lucky in the West.
  • 13 is regarded by many as unlucky, but by others as lucky (the latter tend to be antinomian sorts). The British royal family is infamously triskaidekaphobic.
  • 20 means location to those familiar with the sort of radio code where one would say "what's your 20?"
  • 23 has some sub-cultural currency as a number associated with strange coincidences, among other things.
  • 93 means "love" and "will" to occultists who follow traditions derived from Aleister Crowley's work.
  • 101 means "introductory" or "basic", from the American college course code.
  • 404 means "missing", "not found" or "unavailable", from the HTTP status code.
  • 411 means "information", from a common dialing code for telephone company information services.
  • 420 refers to cannabis use.
  • 5150, a California police shorthand for a mentally disturbed person, was made famous by the Van Halen album of the same name.
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    I imagine 411 and 420 must be highly specific to some location, right? Or are they well understood across the anglosphere?
    – CesarGon
    Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 19:48
  • @CesarGon: They're probably mostly American, and American trying-slightly-too-hard youth culture at that.
    – chaos
    Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 20:00
  • well 411 is telephone code for information directory everywhere in the states. as for colloquialisms like "give me the 411", that would be less common as @chaos says Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 5:30
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I think that the number of numbers with a non-numeric meaning to all anglophones is rather limited, since they are very cultural in nature. The answer that you link to indicates for instance that Biblically based meanings (such as 3, 7, 12, 13 or 666) aren't as universal as I'd assumed, for instance.

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42 is the Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.

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666 comes from common translations of Revelation 13:18:

This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666. (ESV)

There are many theories as to the meaning of this number (even theories contesting the number itself). The connotation is commonly understood to be bedevilment, curse, or evil.

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  • 13 - Considered unlucky (in most English-speaking countries)
  • 616 - the 'real' number of the beast!
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    Iron Maiden are going to have to change their lyrics :-(
    – dave
    Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 18:55
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  • Does 50 (pronounced "five-oh") count?
  • There's also 187, a slang term for murder.

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