As in the title. Does the expression a couple of always have to mean exactly two (like a pair of) or can it mean more (things/objects)? I know a couple, at least in one of its meanings, means a pair (like the happy couple) but as an amount specifier does it also always mean exactly two?

  • No; it is used loosely to mean approximately two. Feb 7, 2015 at 14:48
  • 1
    It does mean exactly two, for me, but for my wife, it means a small number, around two.
    – Greg Lee
    Feb 7, 2015 at 16:33

1 Answer 1


Formally: Yes. It refers to two items of a type. In that sense, not only does it always mean two, but the type of those two items must always be the same.


A couple of people, A couple of fruits.

However, when used informally; it can refer to any indefinite small number.

That said, as your question is referring more closely to meaning as opposed to definition, I would be inclined to accept the more loose association of the word as being to express a small number of things of quantity unknown.

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