# N

quant. 1. A large and indeterminate number of objects:

"*There were N bugs in that crock!*"

Also used in its original sense of a variable name:

"*This crock has N bugs,
as N goes to infinity.*"

(The true number of bugs is always at least N + 1.)

2. A variable whose value is inherited
from the current context. For example, when a meal is being
ordered at a restaurant, N may be understood to mean however
many people there are at the table. From the remark "*We'd like to
order N wonton soups and a family dinner
for N - 1*" you can deduce that one person at the table
wants to eat only soup, even though you don't know how many people
there are (see great-wall).

3. 'Nth': adj. The ordinal counterpart of N, senses #1 and #2.

"*Now for the
Nth and last time...*"

In the specific context
"*Nth-year grad student*", N is generally assumed to
be at least 4, and is usually 5 or more (see tenured graduate student).

See also random numbers, two-to-the-n.