count noses, to

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count noses

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.
See also: count, nose
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

count noses

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]
See also: count, nose
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.

count noses

count people, typically in order to determine the numbers in a vote.
See also: count, nose
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

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
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
"Churchill knew that Hitler wanted to invade Gib, so when Sir Winston heard that only seven apes were left on the Rock, he imported seven more from Morocco." Churchill also decreed that the number of monkeys should never fall below 24 and appointed an army officer to count noses. The rest is history: The apes returned, the British stayed, and the Germans never came.