Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Exceeding a fixed, prescribed, or standard number; extra.
  • adjective Exceeding the required or desired number or amount; superfluous: synonym: superfluous.
  • noun One that is in excess of the regular, necessary, or usual number.
  • noun An actor without a speaking part, as one who appears in a crowd scene.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Exceeding a number stated or prescribed: as, a supernumerary officer in a regiment.
  • Exceeding a necessary or usual number.
  • noun A person or thing beyond the number stated, or beyond what is necessary or usual; especially, a person not formally a member of a regular body or staff of officials or employees, but retained or employed to act as an assistant or substitute in case of necessity.
  • noun Specifically— A military officer attached to a corps or arm of the service where no vacancy exists. Such an officer receives, in the United States army, the rank of brevet second lieutenant, or additional second lieutenant.
  • noun Theat., one not belonging to the regular company, who appears on the stage, but has no lines to speak. Often colloquially abbreviated super and supe.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Exceeding the number stated or prescribed.
  • adjective Exceeding a necessary, usual, or required number or quality; superfluous.
  • noun A person or thing beyond the number stated.
  • noun A person or thing beyond what is necessary or usual; especially, a person employed not for regular service, but only to fill the place of another in case of need; specifically, in theaters, a person who is not a regular actor, but is employed to appear in a stage spectacle.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A civil designation for somebody who works in a group, association or public office, without forming part of the regular staff; those distinguished from numerary. (For example, supernumerary judges are those who help the regular judges when there is a surplus amount of work.)
  • noun An extra or walk-on in a film or play; spear-carrier.
  • adjective Extra; beyond the standard or prescribed amount.
  • adjective Greater in number than.
  • adjective Beyond what is necessary.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a minor actor in crowd scenes
  • adjective more than is needed, desired, or required
  • noun a person serving no apparent function

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Latin supernumerārius : super, above; see super– + numerum, accusative of numerus, number; see nem- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From the Late Latin supernumerarius ("excessively high in number"), from super ("above; beyond") + numerum, accusative of numerus ("number").

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