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Number one was an old Earth naval term that was used by captains when referring to their first mates. Like many Earth naval traditions, this term carried forward into Starfleet and is used by many captains toward their executive officers.
Among the noted Starfleet captains in the habit of calling their XO "number one" were Christopher Pike and Jean-Luc Picard. (TOS episode: "The Cage"; STA novel: Progenitor; TNG episode: "Encounter at Farpoint"; TNG novel: Q & A)