do a number on sb/sth
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British pronunciation/dˈuː ɐ nˈʌmbəɹ ˌɒn ˌɛsbˈiː slˈaʃ ˌɛstˌiːˈeɪtʃ/
American pronunciation/dˈuː ɐ nˈʌmbɚɹ ˌɑːn ˌɛsbˈiː slˈæʃ ˌɛstˌiːˈeɪtʃ/
01

to seriously affect or harm someone or something, usually resulting in negative consequences

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to [do] a number on {sb/sth} definition and meaning

What is the origin of the idiom "do a number on someone or something" and when to use it?

The idiom "do a number on someone or something" is believed to have its roots in American slang from the mid-20th century. The use of "number" in this expression likely refers to a performance or act, with "do a number" suggesting the idea of causing a significant impact or executing an action, often with negative consequences. Over time, this phrase evolved into an idiomatic expression used to describe situations where someone or something has been negatively affected or disrupted. It is commonly employed in everyday conversations, discussions about setbacks or difficulties, or when recounting experiences where someone or something has been significantly impacted, often negatively.

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Example
examples
The stressful job and constant overtime really did a number on her health and well-being.
Years of neglect had done a number on the historic building, leaving it in a state of disrepair.
The hurricane did a number on the coastal town, leaving behind widespread destruction and flooding.
After a series of personal setbacks, he admitted that life had done a number on his confidence and self-esteem.
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Meaning of "To [do] a number on {sb/sth}"
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