To count the number of people in a group to ensure that everyone is present. Everyone, take your seats on the bus so that I can count noses before we leave the museum.
Also, count heads. Reckon up the number of those present. For example, The theater seemed only half-full, so the producer decided to count noses, or Our tour leader was always careful to count heads before the bus started off. This idiom was originally put as tell noses. [Mid-1600s]
count nosescount people, typically in order to determine the numbers in a vote.
count noses, to
To determine the number of persons present. The term may come from horse dealers, who count their stock by the nose (whereas cattle dealers count by the “head”). However, it has been around a long time, since the seventeenth century, when it was sometimes put as “to tell noses.” In 1711 the earl of Shaftesbury, a moral philosopher who studied with John Locke, wrote, “Some modern zealots appear to have no better knowledge of truth, nor better manner of judging it, than by counting noses” (Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times).
See also: count