1610s, in reference to registration and taxation in Roman history, from Latin census "the enrollment of the names and property assessments of all Roman citizens," originally past participle of censere "to assess" (see censor (n.)). The modern use of census as "official enumeration of the inhabitants of a country or state, with details" begins in the U.S. (1790), and Revolutionary France (1791). Property for taxation was the primary purpose in Rome, hence Latin census also was used for "one's wealth, one's worth, wealthiness." Related: Censual.
late 14c., "judicial sentence," originally ecclesiastical, from Latin censura "judgment, opinion," also "office of a censor," from census, past participle of censere "appraise, estimate, assess" (see censor (n.)). General sense of "a finding of fault and an expression of condemnation" is from c. 1600.
late 14c., "having a certain color, having a distinguishing hue," also (c. 1400) "having a certain complexion," past-participle adjective from color (v.). From 1610s as "having a dark or black color of the skin;" specifically, in U.S., "being wholly or partly of African descent," though, as Century Dictionary notes (1897) "In census-tables, etc., the term is often used to include Indians, Chinese, etc."
1926 in the U.S. geographical sense, from earlier Midwestern (1889) in reference to a group of states originally listed as West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas; it now generally refers to states somewhat north and west of these (according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin). Related: Midwesterner.
c. 1400, frowntere, "front line of an army;" early 15c., fronture, "borderland, part of a country which faces another," from Old French frontiere "boundary-line of a country," also "frontier fortress; front rank of an army" (13c.), noun use of adjective frontier "facing, neighboring," from front "brow" (see front (n.)). In reference to North America, "part of the country which is at the edge of its settled regions" from 1670s. Later it was given a specific sense:
What is the frontier? ... In the census reports it is treated as the margin of that settlement which has a density of two or more to the square mile. [F.J. Turner, "The Frontier in American History," 1920]
also pigeonhole, 1570s as "a small recess for pigeons to nest in," from pigeon + hole (n.); later "hole in a dovecote for pigeons to pass in and out" (1680s). Extended meaning "a little compartment or division in a writing desk," etc. is from 1680s, based on resemblance. Hence, "an ideal compartment for classification of persons, etc." (by 1879). The verb is from 1840, "place or file away in a pigeon-hole." The figurative sense of "lay aside for future consideration" is by 1854, that of "label mentally" by 1870.
[Y]ou will have an inspector after you with note-book and ink-horn, and you will be booked and pigeon-holed for further use when wanted. ["Civilisation—The Census," Blackwood's Magazine, Oct. 1854]
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.