Supernumerary is an adjective that describes something there’s too much of. If a scheduling mishap results in three extra people showing up for work, then you have supernumerary staff.

You probably know that something that's super is extreme in some way. And in supernumerary you’ll see part of the word “numeral,” which means “number.” So it makes sense that the adjective supernumerary describes an excess of something — an extraordinary number of that thing. Similarly, the noun version of supernumerary describes someone who's extra and has nothing to do. She just isn’t needed, like the player who never gets off the bench.

Definitions of supernumerary

adj more than is needed, desired, or required

supernumerary ornamentation”
excess, extra, redundant, spare, supererogatory, superfluous, surplus
unnecessary, unneeded
not necessary

n a person in excess of the regular, required, or usual number

“reducing staff is difficult because our employees include no supernumeraries
Type of:
individual, mortal, person, somebody, someone, soul
a human being

n a minor actor in crowd scenes

extra, spear carrier
Type of:
actor, histrion, player, role player, thespian
a theatrical performer

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