by the numbers


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Acronyms, Encyclopedia.

by the numbers

Exactly as the rules, directions, or plans dictate. If we all focus and do this by the numbers, then we should have no trouble getting it finished. The military strike was executed perfectly and by the numbers.
See also: by, number
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

by the numbers

In a strict sequence, step-by-step; also, mechanically. For example, The only way to assemble this computer is to do it by the numbers, or Writing a novel is not something one can do by the numbers. This expression has nothing to do with actual numerical figures (like by the dozen) but uses numbers in the sense of a strict order or sequence.
See also: by, number
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

by the ˈnumbers

(American English) following closely the accepted rules for doing something: I want this to go smooth and by the numbers.
See also: by, number
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

by the numbers

1. In unison as numbers are called out by a leader: performing calisthenics by the numbers.
2. In a strict, step-by-step or mechanical way.
See also: by, number
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

by the numbers

In a prescribed, routine fashion. The term originated during the Civil War, when recruits were taught to load and fire using a series of numerical steps. For example, nine distinct operations were involved in loading a Springfield rifle. The term was revived during World War II for training certain basic operations, such as putting on a gas mask (at the count of one, unfasten the carrier, at two, remove the mask, and so on). After the war the expression was used figuratively in civilian contexts, as in, “In checking out a reserved library book she did it by the numbers—looking it up in the computer, checking the patron’s card, etc.” See also by the book.
See also: by, number
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
See also: