# N

**N** /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*; see *Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic Entomology*.)

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.

4. “Now for the *N*th and last time...” In the specific context “*N*th-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*.