library classification system that organizes information into 10 broad areas subdivided numerically into progressively smaller topics, by 1885, named for Melvil Dewey (1851-1931) who proposed it 1876 while acting librarian of Amherst College. He also crusaded for simplified spelling and the metric system.
c. 1600, "pertaining to a tenth or ten," from Medieval Latin decimalis "of tithes or tenths," from Latin decimus "tenth," from decem "ten" (from PIE root *dekm- "ten"). Applied to Arabic notation before modern use in reference to decimal fractions (fraction whose denominator is a power of 10) emerged 1610s. As a noun from 1640s, "a decimal fraction." Decimal point is by 1711; the use of the point seems to be due to Scottish mathematician John Napier, "Marvellous Merchiston," c. 1619.
c. 1300, "to count," from Old French nombrer "to count, reckon," from nombre (n.) "number" (see number (n.)). Meaning "to assign a distinctive number to" is late 14c.; that of "to ascertain the number of" is from early 15c. Related: Numbered; numbering.
Meaning "set of correlated principles, facts, ideas, etc." first recorded 1630s. Meaning "animal body as an organized whole, sum of the vital processes in an organism" is recorded from 1680s; hence figurative phrase to get (something) out of one's system (1900). Computer sense of "group of related programs" is recorded from 1963. All systems go (1962) is from U.S. space program. The system "prevailing social order" is from 1806.
c. 1300, "sum, aggregate of a collection," from Anglo-French noumbre, Old French nombre and directly from Latin numerus "a number, quantity," from PIE root *nem- "assign, allot; take."
Meaning "written symbol or figure of arithmetic value" is from late 14c. Meaning "single (numbered) issue of a magazine" is from 1795. Colloquial sense of "a person or thing" is by 1894. Meaning "dialing combination to reach a particular telephone receiver" is from 1879; hence wrong number (1886). The modern meaning "musical selection" (1885) is from vaudeville theater programs, where acts were marked by a number. Earlier numbers meant "metrical sound or utterance, measured or harmonic expression" (late 15c.) and, from 1580s, "poetical measure, poetry, verse."
Number one "oneself" is from 1704 (mock-Italian form numero uno attested from 1973); the biblical Book of Numbers (c. 1400, Latin Numeri, Greek Arithmoi) is so called because it begins with a census of the Israelites. Childish slang number one and number two for "urination" and "defecation" attested from 1902. Number cruncher is 1966, of machines; 1971 of persons. To get or have (someone's) number "have someone figured out" is attested from 1853; to say one's number is up (1806) meaning "one's time has come" is a reference to the numbers on a lottery, draft, etc. The numbers "illegal lottery" is from 1897, American English.
also metre, "fundamental unit of length of the metric system," originally intended to be one ten-millionth of the length of a quadrant of the meridian, 1797, from French mètre (18c.), from Greek metron "measure," from PIE root *me- (2) "to measure." Developed by French Academy of Sciences for system of weights and measures based on a decimal system originated 1670 by French clergyman Gabriel Mouton.