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I have been looking for a place that tells me which expression is correct, but I didn't get any satisfactory answer.

Google returns 2,060,000 results for "the estimate number of *", and 73,200,000 results for "the estimated number of *", but there are websites I would consider reliable in the first page of both searches.

What is the correct way to write that expession?

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  • I'd check your figures. I get 189,000 for "the estimate number of" and 39 300 000 for "the estimated number of". This Google Ngram is also telling. 'Estimate' is a noun meaning a number in its own right, and fills the role of an attributive noun with reluctance. Jul 25 '14 at 18:43
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    Google is not to be trusted.
    – tchrist
    Jul 25 '14 at 18:51
  • @EdwinAshworth You got less results than me, because we used different query phrases. I used exactly the ones I mentioned, surrounded by quotation marks. Also, thanks for showing me Google Ngram. I didn't know that tool and I find it extremely useful. Jul 25 '14 at 18:53
  • @tchrist In more ways than one.
    – Pharap
    Jul 27 '14 at 6:04
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The Corpus of Contemporary American English attests 124 instances of estimated number and but a single instance of estimate number.

This solitary hit is a false positive, because here estimate is a verb, not an attributive noun. The citation is from the New York Times in 2012:

. . . clear Marja, a district of 100 square miles, of Taliban insurgents that residents estimate number no more than 200.

So there is no recorded use of estimate as an attributive noun used before number in COCA at all.

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To me, the two mean different things.

An estimated number is any number that has been estimated, guessed at, roughly calculated, etc.

The estimated number of casualties in the plane crash exceeded 200.

An estimate number, on the other hand, is a much narrower and less applicable notion: it is specifically a number mentioned in an estimate (as defined in sense 1.2 of the ODO entry):

A written statement indicating the likely price that will be charged for specified work or repairs.

If you receive an estimate for the delivery of 2,000 items, but only 1,500 are shipped to you for the full price given in the estimate, you might want to lodge a complaint with the person or company who gave you the estimate. In that complaint, you may write something like:

The actual number of items received is only 1,500, though the estimate number is 2,000.

(Quite possibly, you do not want to write anything like that, because it’s fairly clumsy. “… although the estimate clearly says 2,000 items were to be shipped” is much less cumbersome, if a bit longer.)

Since this latter sense is so very limited, and since I cannot think of a way to work an extra of onto the end of it, I can only imagine that what you’re after is an estimated number (of somethings).

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  • If you received estimates from four different sources, you would have an estimate number one, an estimate number two, and estimate number three, and an estimate number four. I could somewhat redundantly ask you which estimate number you preferred if I were seeking a cardinal not an ordinal. Ok, yeah, I’m reaching.
    – tchrist
    Jul 25 '14 at 20:21
  • @tchrist Yeah, I realised that after I posted, as I was unloading laundry downstairs. Jul 25 '14 at 20:27
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As far as I know you either say:

  • the estimate
  • the estimated number

"estimate number" sounds plain wrong to me, to mean an "estimate".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estimation

"Estimation is the process of finding an estimate, ..."

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    My guess as to why you were down-voted is that you didn't elaborate on your proposed answers enough. For example, Your answer quotes an example of 'estimate' being used, but does not actually explain how/why this supports your answer. When a question has/requires a definite 'this is correct' or 'this is false' answer, references are very important and opinions are best kept to a minimum. That said, I can only guess what other people's justifications are as I didn't down-vote your answer.
    – Pharap
    Jul 27 '14 at 6:29

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