# When “strong” is used after a number，does it refer to that exact number or an approximate number？

When strong is used after a number，say in this sentence，

We suffered severely and came back only eighty strong.

does it refer to exactly 80, or more than 80, or approximately 80 survivals?

• Feb 18, 2016 at 7:23
• seems to be synonymous to as many as May 5, 2019 at 21:21

The Free dictionary defines (Definition No.18) 'Strong' as":

Having a specified number of units or members.

In this context, 'We suffered severely and came back only eighty strong.' simply means that 80 people survived and came back (to wherever it maybe). In plain words, this simply means:

After sheer suffering, only 80 people cam back, including me.

So the number is 80. Not more, not less.

• I'm not sure I completely agree with the "not more, not less" part of this answer; it might be context-dependent. Note the example sentence in the MW Learner's Dictionary, meaning 15b: The army was ten thousand strong. With a big number like that, 10,000 might well mean "approximately 10,000". It's not inconceivable that a person might say, "We came back only eighty strong" and mean, "We can back and only (about) 80 of us survived," particularly if (a) no exact headcount was available, and (b) they wanted to use this more "poetic" form.
– J.R.
Feb 18, 2016 at 10:17

I always understood it to mean, say, 100,000 strong, meaning somewhat over 100,000, but certainly more than 100,000.