AskDefine | Define three

Dictionary Definition

three adj : being one more than two [syn: 3, iii] n : the cardinal number that is the sum of one and one and one [syn: 3, III, trio, threesome, tierce, leash, troika, triad, trine, trinity, ternary, ternion, triplet, tercet, terzetto, trey, deuce-ace]

User Contributed Dictionary



Via etyl enm from etyl ang þri, from .


  • a UK /θɹiː/, /Tri:/
  • a US /θɹi/, /Tri/
  • Rhymes: -iː

Cardinal number

  1. One plus two. This many: •••. Ordinal: third.
  2. Describing a set or group with three components.


cardinal number three
set or group with three components
  • Lithuanian: trejeri, trejerios


  1. The digit/figure 3.


digit/figure 3
  • Danish: tre
  • Finnish: kolmonen
  • French: trois
  • German: Drei
  • Hebrew: שלוש
  • Japanese: san
  • Lithuanian: trejetas
  • Polish: trójka
  • Portuguese: três
  • Romanian: trei
  • Russian: тройка
  • Sindhi:
  • Slovak: trojka
  • Slovene: trojka
  • Spanish: número tres
  • Swedish: trea
  • Tok Pisin: tri
  • Ukrainian: трійка
  • Vietnamese: số ba

Derived terms


Cardinal number


Extensive Definition

3 (three) is a number, numeral, and glyph. It is the natural number following 2 and preceding 4.

In mathematics

Three is the first odd prime number, and the second smallest prime. It is both the first Fermat prime (22º + 1) and the first Mersenne prime (2² - 1), as well as the first lucky prime. However, it's the second Sophie Germain prime, the second Mersenne prime exponent, the second factorial prime (2! + 1), the second Lucas prime, the second Stern prime.
Three is the first unique prime due to the properties of its reciprocal.
Three is the third Heegner number.
Three is the second triangular number and it is the only prime triangular number. Three is the only prime which is one less than a perfect square. Any other number which is n² - 1 for some integer n is not prime, since it is (n - 1)(n + 1). This is true for 3 as well, but in its case one of the factors is 1.
Three non-collinear points determine a plane and a circle.
Three is the fourth Fibonacci number and the third that is unique. In the Perrin sequence, however, 3 is both the zeroth and third Perrin numbers.
Three is the fourth open meandric number.
Vulgar fractions with 3 in the denominator have a single digit repeating sequences in their decimal expansions, (.000..., .333..., .666...)
A natural number is divisible by three if the sum of its digits in base 10 is divisible by 3. For example, the number 21 is divisible by three (3 times 7) and the sum of its digits is 2 + 1 = 3. Because of this, the reverse of any number that is divisible by three (or indeed, any permutation of its digits) is also divisible by three. For instance, 1368 and its reverse 8631 are both divisible by three (and so are 1386, 3168, 3186, 3618, etc..). See also Divisibility rule.
A triangle is the most durable shape possible, the only "perfect" figure which if all endpoints have hinges will never change its shape unless the sides themselves are bent.
3 is the only integer between e and π.
Three of the five regular polyhedra have triangular faces -- the tetrahedron, the octahedron, and the icosahedron. Also, three of the five regular polyhedra have vertices where three faces meet -- the tetrahedron, the hexahedron (cube), and the dodecahedron. Furthermore, only three different types of polygons comprise the faces of the five regular polyhedra -- the triangle, the quadrilateral, and the pentagon.
There are only three distinct 4×4 panmagic squares.
Only three tetrahedral numbers are also perfect squares.

In numeral systems

It is frequently noted by historians of numbers that early counting systems often relied on the three-patterned concept of "One- Two- Many" to describe counting limits. In other words, in their own language equivalent way, early peoples had a word to describe the quantities of one and two, but any quantity beyond this point was simply denoted as "Many". As an extension to this insight, it can also be noted that early counting systems appear to have had limits at the numerals 2, 3, and 4. References to counting limits beyond these three indices do not appear to prevail as consistently in the historical record.

List of basic calculations

Evolution of the glyph

Three is often the largest number written with as many lines as the number represents. The Romans tired of writing 4 as IIII, but to this day 3 is written as three lines in Roman and Chinese numerals. This was the way the Brahmin Indians wrote it, and the Gupta made the three lines more curved. The Nagari started rotating the lines clockwise and ending each line with a slight downward stroke on the right. Eventually they made these strokes connect with the lines below, and evolved it to a character that looks very much like a modern 3 with an extra stroke at the bottom. It was the Western Ghubar Arabs who finally eliminated the extra stroke and created our modern 3. (The "extra" stroke, however, was very important to the Eastern Arabs, and they made it much larger, while rotating the strokes above to lie along a horizontal axis, and to this day Eastern Arabs write a 3 that looks like a mirrored 7 with ridges on its top line): ٣
While the shape of the 3 character has an ascender in most modern typefaces, in typefaces with text figures the character usually has a descender, as, for example, in * 3-faced goddess in Greek Mythology: Hecate
  • 3 Gorgons-(snake-haired sisters in Greek mythology): Stheno, Euryale, Medusa are sometimes depicted as having wings of gold, brazen claws, and the tusks of boars. Medusa is the only one of the gorgons that is mortal.
  • 3 different beings made up the different qualities of death according to ancient Greek belief: Thantos (male)~ Ker (female)~ Gorgo (female).
  • 3 Roman Furies (female personifications of vengeance) that were called the Erinyes (the Angry Ones) or Eumenides by the Ancient Greeks (Orestes called them the Solemn Ones, or the Kindly Ones): Alecto ("unceasing")~ Megaera ("grudging")~ Tisiphone ("avenging murder").
  • 3-headed dog that guarded the gate to Hades in Greek Mythology: Cerberus
  • 3 ancient Greek Harpies: Aello, Ocypete, and Celaeno.

In Buddhism

  • The Triple Gem - Buddha, Dhamma (Buddha's teaching) and Sangha (the preachers of Dhamma)
  • The Triple Bodhi (ways to understand the end of birth)- Budhu, Pasebudhu, Mahaarahath

Abrahamic religions

Other religions

  • The Wiccan Rule of Three.
  • The Triple Goddess: Maiden, Mother, Crone; the three fates.
  • In Taoism, the Three Pure Ones.
  • The three Gunas underlie action, in the Vedic system of knowledge. There is also the concept of Trimurti in Hindu tradition. The Buddha has three bodies. The three Vedas are called trayi i.e triad. Lord Shiva is Trinetra-Three-eyed. The confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and hidden Sarasvati is the famous Triveni-confluence of three rivers. Buddhism's three refuges are Trisharana- Buddhan sharanam gacchami, Dhammam sharanam gacchami, Sangham sharanam gacchami.
  • In Greek mythology, the Three Graces or Charites. Also the number of heads of Cerberus, the monstrous dog that guards the gate to Hades
  • Various Triple deities.

In esoteric tradition

In fictional religion

  • In The Legend of Zelda video game series, a divine relic called the Triforce is represented by 3 Golden triangles. The Triforce was fashioned by a trio of goddesses who represented power, wisdom, and courage, and the sections of the Triforce each represent one of the three.

In philosophy

In Education

  • 3 R's: Reading~ 'Riting~ 'Rithmetic
  • 3 divisions: Elementary (Grade) School~ Middle (Jr. High or Intermediate) School~ High (Sr. High) School
  • 3 levels: Primary (~Elementary) Education~ Secondary (~Jr. + Sr. High) Education~ Tertiary (College, University, Polytechnical Institute, TAFE) Education
  • 3 University degrees: Bachelor's~ Master's- Ph.D
  • 3 University distinctions: Cum Laude~ Magna Cum Laude~ Suma Cum Laude
  • 3 testing formats: True/False~ Multiple Choice~ Essay
  • 3 levels to grade formulas: A+ (A plus)~ A (A neutral)~ A- (A minus)
  • 3 good grade divisions: A~ B~ C
  • 3 rings of the school bell return children to class after a fire drill.
  • 3 ring notebooks are one standard of usage for holding looseleaf notebook paper (2 is another in lever-arch).
  • 3-number combination locks are a standard usage for lockers.

In politics

  • Plato split his utopian city into three populations: laborers, guardians (warriors), and philosophers (rulers)
  • Several polities have been ruled by three persons in a triumvirate or a troika.
  • As well, medieval theory divided society in laboratores (peasants), bellatores (noble warriors) and oratores (clergy). An earlier division had only the potentes ("powerful", warriors) and the powerless.
  • In the Ancient Regime, the estates of the realm (e.g. the French Estates General) were divided in a branch for aristocracy, another for the Catholic hierarchy and the Third Estate for rich peasants and bourgeoisie. The triumph of the Third Estate is the French Revolution.
  • By analogy to the Third Estate, the Third World (poor countries or non-aligned countries) was defined as different from the First World (led by the United States) and the Second World (led by the Soviet Union).
  • The "third way" is a political term applied to a variety of "third choice" options that some offer as an alternative to dichotomous situations which may otherwise appear polarized.
  • After the fall of Constantinople, the Tsars considered Moscow as the Third Rome.
  • Also Nazism considered Nazi Germany the Third Reich after the Holy Roman Empire and the Prussian Empire.
  • There are three branches to the US government; executive, legislative, and judicial.
  • Alvin Toffler's The Third Wave considers that the late twentieth century saw the beginning of a third wave of change in post-industrial civilization after the Neolithic and the Industrial Revolution.
  • The Third International supported Leninism.
  • Cenocracy is the word coined to represent what is believed by some to be the next and superior step to present day forms of Democratic rule. It is based on the notion that before a society can truly achieve a government Of-By-and For the people, the people themselves must play a direct part (and not be represented vicariously) in the law-making process. To this end, every man, woman, and worker must have access to such a role, thus constituting a true 3rd branch legislative body. For example, each State in the United States would adopt an ongoing list of self-elected candidates from which the 3 aforementioned persons would be randomly selected to fulfill one-year terms of office with at least the same pay, privileges and legislative power commensurate to all other congressional members.

As a lucky or unlucky number

Three (三, formal writing: 叁, pinyin san1, Cantonese: saam1) is considered a good number in Chinese culture because it sounds like the word "alive" (生 pinyin sheng1, Cantonese: saang1), compared to four (四, pinyin: si4, Cantonese: sei3) that sounds like the word "death" (死 pinyin si3, Cantonese: sei2).
Counting to three is common in situations where a group of people wish to perform an action in synchrony: Now, on the count of three, everybody pull!  Assuming the counter is proceeding at a uniform rate, the first two counts are necessary to establish the rate, but then everyone can predict when "three" will come based on "one" and "two"; this is likely why three is used instead of some other number.
In Vietnam, it is bad luck to take a photo with three people in it.
Luck, especially bad luck, is often said to "come in threes".
Some cultures in history have a place for people of third gender such as in Thailand.
It is often believed that people die in threes. This only includes people in your personal sphere (ie. directly impact on your day-to-day life).
There is a superstition that states it is unlucky to take a third light, that is, to be the third person to light a cigarette from the same match or lighter. This is commonly believed to date from the trenches of the First World War when a sniper might see the first light, take aim on the second and fire on the third.
3 strikes and you're out.
3rd time's a charm.

In technology

  • The resin identification code used in recycling to identify polyvinyl chloride.
  • On computer keyboards, in the United Kingdom the "3" key may be used to type the pound sign when pressed in combination with the shift key.
  • On most telephone keypads, the "3" key is also associated with the letters "D", "E", and "F".
  • In ASCII, the code for "3" in hexadecimal is 33. This is the only character in ASCII such that a large file consisting of a single character has identical-looking hexadecimal and normal representation.
  • The glyph "3" may be used as a substitute for yogh () or ze () when those characters are not available.
  • Three is the minimum odd number of voting components for simple easy redundancy checks by direct comparison.
  • Three is approximately pi (actually closer to 3.14159) when doing rapid engineering wags or estimates. The same is true if one wants a rough-and-ready estimate of e, which is actually approximately 2.7183.
  • Some computer users may use "3" as an alternate to the letter "E", often in jest or to prevent search engines from reading their messages. This form of code is an example of basic Leetspeak.
  • "3" is the DVD region code for many East Asian countries, except for Japan (which is Region 2) and China (which is Region 6).

In music

  • Three is the number of performers in a trio. mainly attributed to the idea that there are three basic vocal ranges for singers: Soprano, Alto, and Bass for women, Alto, Tenor, and Bass for men. Sometimes, however, a trio can maintain the same vocal range (i.e. The Three Tenors and The Three Irish Tenors.)
  • There are 3 notes in a triad, the most important and basic form of any chord.
  • Any diatonic chord progression's key signature is made obvious with any 3 different triads, as opposed to potential key ambiguities with any 2 chords.
  • The tritone, which divides the octave into 3 equally spaced notes (root, tritone, octave) is the rarest interval of any mode, only occurring semantically twice, and physically once. It is the only interval that, when inverted, remains unchanged functionally and harmonically.
  • The 3/4 time signature of Western classical music tradition (Three beats to a measure, with the quarter note comprising the beat.) is said to represent the Holy Trinity of Christian doctrine, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is for this reason that it is often utilized in compositions which were written for use in ecclesiastical rites, or that are inspired by scriptural/spiritual themes and texts.
  • In a standard jazz combo there are 3 necessary parts: bass, percussion, and chord maker.

In Geography

In filmography

  • Three is a 1969 film starring Charlotte Rampling and Sam Waterston.
  • Three is a 1965 Yugoslavian film directed by Aleksandar Petrović.
  • Three is a 2002 Asian horror movie collaboration.
  • Three, also known as Survival Island is a 2006 film starring Billy Zane and Kelly Brook.
  • There is a 1977 film titled 3 Women.
  • In both the film The Craft and the fantasy television series Charmed, the "power of three" has been used as part of wiccan incantations.
  • The Three Stooges, a comedy group made up of "Larry, Moe, and Curly" and later "Larry, Moe, and Shemp" in the early- to mid-20th century.

In sports

In literature

Original scholarly articles/reviews about the three

  • The Number Three in The American Culture. A selected chapter found in the book entitled "Every Man His Way" (1967- 68) by Alan Dundes.
  • "People in Threes Going Up in Smoke and Other Triplicities in Russian Literature and Culture" (Fall 2005, Rocky Mountain Review) by Lee B. Croft.
  • "Buckland's Third Revolution" (1997- 98) and "Three Wise Men" (1984 - 85) posters by Herb O. Buckland.

In other fields

Three is:


  • Wells, D. The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Numbers London: Penguin Group. (1987): 46 - 48

External links

three in Old English (ca. 450-1100): Þrīe
three in Arabic: 3 (عدد)
three in Official Aramaic (700-300 BCE): 3 (ܡܢܝܢܐ)
three in Guarani: Mbohapy
three in Bosnian: 3 (broj)
three in Catalan: Tres
three in Chuvash: 3 (хисеп)
three in Czech: 3 (číslo)
three in Corsican: 3 (numeru)
three in Welsh: Tri
three in Danish: 3 (tal)
three in Pennsylvania German: Drei
three in German: Drei
three in Erzya: 3 (колмо)
three in Spanish: Tres
three in Esperanto: Tri
three in Basque: Hiru
three in Persian: ۳ (عدد)
three in French: 3 (nombre)
three in Gan Chinese: 3
three in Korean: 3
three in Igbo: Atọ
three in Indonesian: 3 (angka)
three in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): 3 (numero)
three in Xhosa: Zintathu
three in Italian: 3 (numero)
three in Hebrew: 3 (מספר)
three in Kinyarwanda: Gatatu
three in Haitian: 3 (nonm)
three in Kurdish: Sisê (Hejmar)
three in Latin: Tres
three in Luxembourgish: Dräi
three in Lithuanian: 3 (skaičius)
three in Lombard: Nümar 3
three in Hungarian: 3 (szám)
three in Dutch: 3 (getal)
three in Japanese: 3
three in Norwegian: 3 (tall)
three in Norwegian Nynorsk: Talet 3
three in Polish: 3 (liczba)
three in Portuguese: Três
three in Quechua: Kimsa
three in Russian: 3 (число)
three in Simple English: Three
three in Slovenian: 3 (število)
three in Serbian: 3 (број)
three in Finnish: 3 (luku)
three in Swedish: 3 (tal)
three in Tagalog: 3 (bilang)
three in Telugu: మూడు
three in Thai: 3
three in Vietnamese: 3 (số)
three in Turkish: 3 (sayı)
three in Ukrainian: 3 (число)
three in Vlaams: 3 (getal)
three in Yiddish: 3 (נומער)
three in Contenese: 3
three in Chinese: 3
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1