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I am not sure about the correct meaning of the word "one" in this sentence:

The tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, One World Trade Center is a prominent feature of the New York City skyline.

There are many meanings in the dictionary, but I don't know which one is correct :(

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  • (In short, the "meaning" of one in the new building's name is potentially very complex, and beyond the scope of this site. Personally I might have expected the word new to be used, since One World probably had significant associations even before Bob Marley popularised it.) Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 12:34
  • @FumbleFingers I don't understand what you mean by this word being above the level of this site. I think that instead of numbering, they put the name of the building as one. Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 13:38
  • @FumbleFingers In other words, instead of saying the 1st wtc, they said one wtc Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 13:40
  • I've no idea wat you mean by they put the name of the building as one. But I see Paul's answer below includes the name’s choice was also influenced by its subtle suggestion of one-world, with a connotation something like... And I can easily imagine that a committee of "worthy" people had an extended discussion about exactly what that "connotation" might be, before settling on the name. Obviously it can't be the first wtc, since that was destroyed. Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 17:10
  • @FumbleFingers it's not at all complex. It's basically a house number, just as the 10 in 10 Downing Street.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 11, 2023 at 11:36

3 Answers 3

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It’s the designation for one of the buildings at the World Trade Center site. Each of the major office buildings existing at or planned for the site is designated by a number: One, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7—but not 6.

It also was the name of the North Tower—one of the twin towers destroyed on September 11, 2001—as well as its mailing address. For example, a former employee at Cantor Fitzgerald reports that their mailing address was

1 World Trade Center
New York, NY 10048

(The ZIP code was exclusive to the complex, which had its own post office.)

Wikipedia confirms as much (minus the Cantor Fitzgerald stuff).

I’d speculate that the name’s choice was also influenced by its subtle suggestion of one-world, with a connotation something like, “Even though the previous structure was destroyed by terrorists, the world as a single, united community still thrives unbowed.”

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    If there are six WTC buildings, why is the first called ‘One World Trade Center’ instead of the more logical ‘World Trade Center One’?
    – gidds
    Commented Sep 10, 2023 at 23:49
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    @gidds A likely explanation is that it is meant to be similar to a street address. For example, in an address like 1234 Main Street, the number comes before the street. Even though it's stylized as a name, One World Trade Center alludes to an address such as 1 World Trade Center Plaza (number followed by street). See the answer by shashin-ka. Commented Sep 11, 2023 at 4:27
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    Street addresses in the USA are formatted "number streetname." In other parts of the world they are often formatted "streetname number." This is probably a large part of the misunderstanding.
    – JRE
    Commented Sep 11, 2023 at 7:18
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    @phoog They may be analogizing with things like "Air Force One" and "Apollo 11". When we number a series of things, we often put the number after the general name. They didn't think of it as an address.
    – Barmar
    Commented Sep 11, 2023 at 15:22
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In the context of the question, One World Trade Center could refer to two different buildings:

(A) The North Tower of the original development World Trade Center, opened in 1973 and destroyed in 2001

(B) A building built on the site of the original World Trade Center complex after the 2001 disaster

Details: The original World Trade Center (A) encompassed seven office buildings, tracks and a station of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York, a station and rails of the Port Authority Trans Hudson Railway (PATH), and a dock for New York Harborways Ferries. The complex was owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The seven buildings were known by their numbers. The twin towers were building #1 and building #2. Building #1, the North Tower, was slightly taller than #2 and at the time the tallest building in the world.

The North Tower's street and mailing address was:

1 World Trade Center
New York, NY
10048

After the tragedy of 2001, several buildings were built on the site of the original World Trade Center. The tallest of these is known by various names: The Freedom Tower, One World Trade Center, 1 WTC.

On March 26, 2009, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) confirmed that the building would be officially known by its legal name of "One World Trade Center", rather than its colloquial name of "Freedom Tower". The building has 94 stories, with the top floor numbered 104. (Wikipedia)

One World Trade Center's street and mailing address is:

One World Trade Center
285 Fulton Street
New York, NY 10006

So, back to your quote: "One World Trade Center is a prominent feature of of the New York City skyline." "One World Trade Center" is the legal name of the building currently standing at 285 Fulton Street, New York City. The quote could refer to either building, but it would have to be over 22 years old to accurately refer to the North Tower.

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  • The quote doesn't refer to the North Tower, because calling it "The tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere" doesn't make sense. Per Wikipedia: "It was completed in 1972 [...] and was the tallest building in the world until 1973, when surpassed by the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) in Chicago." So it was technically the tallest in the Western Hemisphere for a year, but more notably, it was the tallest in the world. Plus, describing only one of the twin towers as "a prominent feature" also doesn't make sense.
    – wjandrea
    Commented Sep 10, 2023 at 17:41
  • I always thought it was the address, which it is kinda was (1 World Trade Center, New York, NY, 10048), but then even the postal code changed? (One World Trade Center, 285 Fulton Street, New York, NY 10006)
    – Mazura
    Commented Sep 10, 2023 at 20:08
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    @Mazura the ZIP code10048 was reserved for the seven buildings of the original World Trade Center, based on the number of people who worked there. The twin towers’ street addresses were #1 WTC 10048 and #2 WTC 10048. #3 through #7 were the other five buildings.
    – user177197
    Commented Sep 10, 2023 at 20:49
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    The original street address is the real answer here. It's called "1 World Trade Center" with the cardinal number 1 at the start (as opposed to at the end or in some other form) because that's how street addresses are normally formatted, with the street number at the start and the street at the end. Commented Sep 11, 2023 at 3:45
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    Street addresses in the USA are formatted "number streetname." In other parts of the world they are often formatted "streetname number." This is probably a large part of the misunderstanding.
    – JRE
    Commented Sep 11, 2023 at 7:18
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In New York City there is a practice of assigning more prestigious sounding addresses to large buildings. Most of these addresses use the word "plaza." This practice was prevalent in the second half of the twentieth century. I have heard that the practice was stopped at some point, with existing buildings keeping their designations but no new designations being allowed, but I don't have a good reference for that.

From a New York Times article on the topic from December 30, 1973:

The post office has a growing headache that might be termed the plaza syndrome.

To its dismay and that of city officials, an increasing number of owners are bestowing upon their new office buildings fanciful addresses apparently chosen to create the kind of prestige that might attract tenants.

The article then mentions 1 Liberty Plaza (actual address 91 Liberty Street) and says

Since 1960, the Manhattan Borough President's office and the City Council have authorized plaza designations for 24 major structures. The United States Postal Service has accepted those official plaza names, but insists that they be used in conjunction with conventional street addresses, including ZIP codes.

Many major tenants in the 24 “official” plaza buildings ignore that regulation. Moreover, there has been what the borough president's office calls “a proliferation of illegal plazas” as 20 or so buildings close to those with “official” designations adopted the plaza names as part of their addresses.

Some buildings, of course, have such prominence that they transcend an address—the Pan Am Building, for example, the Empire State Building or the World Trade Center. But officials say that many new structures lack such prominence and have adopted plaza addresses, authorized or not, that are inexact and even misleading.

The building known as 1 State Street Plaza, for instance, cannot be entered from State Street. Its lobby is at 44 Whitehall Street. And the structure next door, just to the north of 1 State Street Plaza, is 1 Battery Park Plaza. Its entrance is at 1 Pearl Street.

Somewhat later, discussing 1 New York Plaza:

To make matters worse, two nearby buildings have, without city or post office authorization, adopted New York Plaza addresses. They are 4 New York Plaza, with a main entrance on Water Street, and 2 New York Plaza, which has a lobby facing South Street.

The article then mentions a building that has unofficially called itself 2 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza despite being downtown from 1 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, "which ignores the convention that higher numbers are to the north."

Notice how the article overlooks the fact the the World Trade Center isn't a single building but instead comprises several buildings. As others have noted, these buildings have similarly been identified by number. Since "center" is already a noun indicating a place, even though it is not a traditional street designation, there was apparently no need seen for an additional noun such as "plaza."

Since the twin towers were designated one and two, it is natural for the single tower that replaced them to be designated one. While addresses are normally written with digits, it is not unheard of to use words. Thus, One World Trade Center.

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