Open main menu

In linguistics, a numeral in the broadest sense is a word or phrase that describes a numerical quantity. Some theories of grammar use the word "numeral" to refer to cardinal numbers that act as a determiner to specify the quantity of a noun, for example the "two" in "two hats". Some theories of grammar do not include determiners as a part of speech and consider "two" in this example to be an adjective. Some theories consider "numeral" to be a synonym for "number" and assign all numbers (including ordinal numbers like the compound word "seventy-fifth") to a part of speech called "numerals"[1][2] Numerals in the broad sense can also be analyzed as a noun ("three is a small number"), as a pronoun ("the two went to town"), or for a small number of words as an adverb ("I rode the slide twice").

Numerals can express relationships like quantity (cardinal numbers), sequence (ordinal numbers), frequency (once, twice), and part (fraction).[3]


Identifying numeralsEdit

Numerals may be attributive, as in two dogs, or pronominal, as in I saw two (of them).

Many words of different parts of speech indicate number or quantity. Such words are called quantifiers. Examples are words such as every, most, least, some, etc. Numerals are distinguished from other quantifiers by the fact that they designate a specific number.[3] Examples are words such as five, ten, fifty, one hundred, etc. They may or may not be treated as a distinct part of speech; this may vary, not only with the language, but with the choice of word. For example, "dozen" serves the function of a noun, "first" serves the function of an adjective, and "twice" serves the function of an adverb. In Old Church Slavonic, the cardinal numbers 5 to 10 were feminine nouns; when quantifying a noun, that noun was declined in the genitive plural like other nouns that followed a noun of quantity (one would say the equivalent of "five of people"). In English grammar, the classification "numeral" (viewed as a part of speech) is reserved for those words which have distinct grammatical behavior: when a numeral modifies a noun, it may replace the article: the/some dogs played in the parktwelve dogs played in the park. (Note that *dozen dogs played in the park is not grammatical, so "dozen" is not a numeral in this sense.) English numerals indicate cardinal numbers. However, not all words for cardinal numbers are necessarily numerals. For example, million is grammatically a noun, and must be preceded by an article or numeral itself.

Numerals may be simple, such as 'eleven', or compound, such as 'twenty-three'.

In linguistics, however, numerals are classified according to purpose: examples are ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc.; from 'third' up, these are also used for fractions), multiplicative numbers (once, twice, and thrice), multipliers (single, double, and triple), and distributive numbers (singly, doubly, and triply). Georgian,[4] Latin, and Romanian (see Romanian distributive numbers) have regular distributive numbers, such as Latin singuli "one-by-one", bini "in pairs, two-by-two", terni "three each", etc. In languages other than English, there may be other kinds of number words. For example, in Slavic languages there are collective numbers which describe sets, such as pair or dozen in English (see Russian numerals, Polish numerals).

Some languages have a very limited set of numerals, and in some cases they arguably do not have any numerals at all, but instead use more generic quantifiers, such as 'pair' or 'many'. However, by now most such languages have borrowed the numeral system or part of the numeral system of a national or colonial language, though in a few cases (such as Guarani[citation needed]), a numeral system has been invented internally rather than borrowed. Other languages had an indigenous system but borrowed a second set of numerals anyway. An example is Japanese, which uses either native or Chinese-derived numerals depending on what is being counted.

In many languages, such as Chinese, numerals require the use of numeral classifiers. Many sign languages, such as ASL, incorporate numerals.

Larger numeralsEdit

English has derived numerals for multiples of its base (fifty, sixty, etc), and some languages have simplex numerals for these, or even for numbers between the multiples of its base. Balinese, for example, currently has a decimal system, with words for 10, 100, and 1000, but has additional simplex numerals for 25 (with a second word for 25 only found in a compound for 75), 35, 45, 50, 150, 175, 200 (with a second found in a compound for 1200), 400, 900, and 1600. In Hindustani, the numerals between 10 and 100 have developed to the extent that they need to be learned independently.

In many languages, numerals up to the base are a distinct part of speech, while the words for powers of the base belong to one of the other word classes. In English, these higher words are hundred 102, thousand 103, million 106, and higher powers of a thousand (short scale) or of a million (long scale—see names of large numbers). These words cannot modify a noun without being preceded by an article or numeral (*hundred dogs played in the park), and so are nouns.

In East Asia, the higher units are hundred, thousand, myriad 104, and powers of myriad. In India, they are hundred, thousand, lakh 105, crore 107, and so on. The Mesoamerican system, still used to some extent in Mayan languages, was based on powers of 20: bak’ 400 (202), pik 8000 (203), kalab 160,000 (204), etc.

Numerals of cardinal numbersEdit

The cardinal numbers have numerals. In the following tables, [and] indicates that the word and is used in some dialects (such as British English), and omitted in other dialects (such as American English).

This table demonstrates the standard English construction of some cardinal numbers. (See next table for names of larger cardinals.)

Value Name Alternate names, and names for sets of the given size
0 Zero aught, cipher, cypher, donut, dot, duck, goose egg, love, nada, naught, nil, none, nought, nowt, null, ought, oh, squat, zed, zilch, zip, zippo, Sunya (Sanskrit)
1 One ace, individual, single, singleton, unary, unit, unity, Pratham(Sanskrit)
2 Two binary, brace, couple, couplet, distich, deuce, double, doubleton, duad, duality, duet, duo, dyad, pair, span, twain, twin, twosome, yoke
3 Three deuce-ace, leash, set, tercet, ternary, ternion, terzetto, threesome, tierce, trey, triad, trine, trinity, trio, triplet, troika, hat-trick
4 Four foursome, quadruplet, quatern, quaternary, quaternity, quartet, tetrad
5 Five cinque, fin, fivesome, pentad, quint, quintet, quintuplet
6 Six half dozen, hexad, sestet, sextet, sextuplet, sise
7 Seven heptad, septet, septuple, walking stick
8 Eight octad, octave, octet, octonary, octuplet, ogdoad
9 Nine ennead
10 Ten deca, decade, das (India)
11 Eleven onze, ounze, ounce, banker's dozen
12 Twelve dozen
13 Thirteen baker's dozen, long dozen[5]
20 Twenty score,
21 Twenty-one long score[5], blackjack
22 Twenty-two Deuce-deuce
24 Twenty-four two dozen
40 Forty two-score
50 Fifty half-century
55 Fifty-five double nickel
60 Sixty three-score
70 Seventy three-score and ten
80 Eighty four-score
87 Eighty-seven four-score and seven
90 Ninety four-score and ten
100 One hundred centred, century, ton, short hundred
111 One hundred [and] eleven eleventy-one[6]
120 One hundred [and] twenty long hundred,[5] great hundred, (obsolete) hundred
144 One hundred [and] forty-four gross, dozen dozen, small gross
1000 One thousand chiliad, grand, G, thou, yard, kilo, k, millennium, Hajaar (India)
1024 One thousand [and] twenty-four kibi or kilo in computing, see binary prefix (kilo is shortened to K, Kibi to Ki)
1100 One thousand one hundred Eleven hundred
1728 One thousand seven hundred [and] twenty-eight great gross, long gross, dozen gross
10000 Ten thousand myriad, wan (China)
100000 One hundred thousand lakh
500000 Five hundred thousand crore (Iranian)
1000000 One million Mega, meg, mil, (often shortened to M)
1048576 One million forty-eight thousand five hundred [and] seventy-six Mibi or Mega in computing, see binary prefix (Mega is shortened to M, Mibi to Mi)
10000000 Ten million crore (Indian)(Pakistan)
100000000 One hundred million yi (China)

English names for powers of 10Edit

This table compares the English names of cardinal numbers according to various American, British, and Continental European conventions. See English numerals or names of large numbers for more information on naming numbers.

Short scale Long scale
Value American British
(Nicolas Chuquet)
Continental European
(Jacques Peletier du Mans)
100 One
101 Ten
102 Hundred
103 Thousand
106 Million
109 Billion Thousand million Milliard
1012 Trillion Billion
1015 Quadrillion Thousand billion Billiard
1018 Quintillion Trillion
1021 Sextillion Thousand trillion Trilliard
1024 Septillion Quadrillion
1027 Octillion Thousand quadrillion Quadrilliard
1030 Nonillion Quintillion
1033 Decillion Thousand quintillion Quintilliard
1036 Undecillion Sextillion
1039 Duodecillion Thousand sextillion Sextilliard
1042 Tredecillion Septillion
1045 Quattuordecillion Thousand septillion Septilliard
1048 Quindecillion Octillion
1051 Sexdecillion Thousand octillion Octilliard
1054 Septendecillion Nonillion
1057 Octodecillion Thousand nonillion Nonilliard
1060 Novemdecillion Decillion
1063 Vigintillion Thousand decillion Decilliard
1066 Unvigintillion Undecillion
1069 Duovigintillion Thousand undecillion Undecilliard
1072 Trevigintillion Duodecillion
1075 Quattuorvigintillion Thousand duodecillion Duodecilliard
1078 Quinvigintillion Tredecillion
1081 Sexvigintillion Thousand tredecillion Tredecilliard
1084 Septenvigintillion Quattuordecillion
1087 Octovigintillion Thousand quattuordecillion Quattuordecilliard
1090 Novemvigintillion Quindecillion
1093 Trigintillion Thousand quindecillion Quindecilliard
1096 Untrigintillion Sexdecillion
1099 Duotrigintillion Thousand sexdecillion Sexdecilliard
10120 Novemtrigintillion Vigintillion
10123 Quadragintillion Thousand vigintillion Vigintilliard
10153 Quinquagintillion Thousand quinvigintillion Quinvigintilliard
10180 Novemquinquagintillion Trigintillion
10183 Sexagintillion Thousand trigintillion Trigintilliard
10213 Septuagintillion Thousand quintrigintillion Quintrigintilliard
10240 Novemseptuagintillion Quadragintillion
10243 Octogintillion Thousand quadragintillion Quadragintilliard
10273 Nonagintillion Thousand quinquadragintillion Quinquadragintilliard
10300 Novemnonagintillion Quinquagintillion
10303 Centillion Thousand quinquagintillion Quinquagintilliard
10360 Cennovemdecillion Sexagintillion
10420 Cennovemtrigintillion Septuagintillion
10480 Cennovemquinquagintillion Octogintillion
10540 Cennovemseptuagintillion Nonagintillion
10600 Cennovemnonagintillion Centillion
10603 Ducentillion Thousand centillion Centilliard

There is no consistent and widely accepted way to extend cardinals beyond centillion (centilliard).

Myriad, Octad, and -yllion systemsEdit

The following table details the myriad, octad, chinese myriad, Chinese long and -yllion names for powers of 10.

There is also a Knuth-proposed system notation of numbers, named the -yllion system.[citation needed] For instance, in this system, 1032 would be represented as 1'0000,0000;0000,0000:0000,0000;0000,0000.[clarification needed]

Value Myriad System Name Octad System Name Chinese Myriad Scale Chinese Long Scale Knuth-proposed
System Name
100 One One One
101 Ten Ten Ten
102 Hundred Hundred Hundred
103 Thousand Thousand Ten hundred
104 Myriad Myriad () () Myriad
105 Ten myriad Ten myriad 十萬 (十万) 十萬 (十万) Ten myriad
106 Hundred myriad Hundred myriad 百萬 (百万) 百萬 (百万) Hundred myriad
107 Thousand myriad Thousand myriad 千萬 (千万) 千萬 (千万) Ten hundred myriad
108 Second Myriad Octad (亿) (亿) Myllion
1012 Third myriad Myriad Octad 萬億 Myriad myllion
1016 Fourth myriad Second octad Byllion
1020 Fifth myriad Myriad second octad 萬兆
1024 Sixth myriad Third octad 億兆 Myllion byllion
1028 Seventh myriad Myriad third octad 萬億兆
1032 Eighth myriad Fourth octad () Tryllion
1036 Ninth myriad Myriad fourth octad () 萬京
1040 Tenth myriad Fifth octad 億京
1044 Eleventh myriad Myriad fifth octad () 萬億京
1048 Twelfth myriad Sixth octad () (in China and in Japan) 兆京
1052 Thirteenth myriad Myriad sixth octad 恆河沙 (恒河沙) (in China) 萬兆京
1056 Fourteenth myriad Seventh octad 阿僧祇 (in China); 恆河沙 (恒河沙) (in Japan) 億兆京
1060 Fifteenth myriad Myriad seventh octad 那由他, 那由多 (in China) 萬億兆京
1064 Sixteenth myriad Eighth octad 不可思議 (不可思议) (in China), 阿僧祇 (in Japan) Quadyllion
1068 Seventeenth myriad Myriad eighth octad 無量大数 (in China) 萬垓
1072 Eighteenth myriad Nineth octad 那由他, 那由多 (in Japan) 億垓
1080 Twentieth myriad Tenth octad 不可思議 (in Japan) 兆垓
1088 Twenty-second myriad Eleventh Octad 無量大数 (in Japan) 億兆垓
10128 Quinyllion
10256 Sexyllion
10512 () Septyllion
101,024 () Octyllion
102,048 Nonyllion
104,096 () Decyllion
108,192 () Undecyllion
1016,384 Duodecyllion
1032,768 Tredecyllion
1065,536 Quattuordecyllion
10131,072 Quindecyllion
10262,144 Sexdecyllion
10524,288 Septendecyllion
101,048,576 Octodecyllion
102,097,152 Novemdecyllion
104,194,304 Vigintyllion
10232 Trigintyllion
10242 Quadragintyllion
10252 Quinquagintyllion
10262 Sexagintyllion
10272 Septuagintyllion
10282 Octogintyllion
10292 Nonagintyllion
102102 Centyllion
1021,002 Millyllion
10210,002 Myryllion

Fractional numeralsEdit

This is a table of English names for non-negative rational numbers less than or equal to 1. It also lists alternative names, but there is no widespread convention for the names of extremely small positive numbers.

Keep in mind that rational numbers like 0.12 can be represented in infinitely many ways, e.g. zero-point-one-two (0.12), twelve percent (12%), three twenty-fifths (3/25), nine seventy-fifths (9/75), six fiftieths (6/50), twelve hundredths (12/100), twenty-four two-hundredths (24/200), etc.

Value Fraction Common names
1 1/1 One, Unity
0.9 9/10 Nine tenths, [zero] point nine
0.833333... 5/6 Five sixths
0.8 4/5 Four fifths, eight tenths, [zero] point eight
0.75 3/4 three quarters, three fourths, seventy-five hundredths, [zero] point seven five
0.7 7/10 Seven tenths, [zero] point seven
0.666666... 2/3 Two thirds
0.6 3/5 Three fifths, six tenths, [zero] point six
0.5 1/2 One half, five tenths, [zero] point five
0.4 2/5 Two fifths, four tenths, [zero] point four
0.333333... 1/3 One third
0.3 3/10 Three tenths, [zero] point three
0.25 1/4 One quarter, one fourth, twenty-five hundredths, [zero] point two five
0.2 1/5 One fifth, two tenths, [zero] point two
0.166666... 1/6 One sixth
0.142857142857... 1/7 One seventh
0.125 1/8 One eighth, one-hundred-[and-]twenty-five thousandths, [zero] point one two five
0.111111... 1/9 One ninth
0.1 1/10 One tenth, [zero] point one, One perdecime, one perdime
0.090909... 1/11 One eleventh
0.09 9/100 Nine hundredths, [zero] point zero nine
0.083333... 1/12 One twelfth
0.08 2/25 Two twenty-fifths, eight hundredths, [zero] point zero eight
0.076923076923... 1/13 One thirteenth
0.071428571428... 1/14 One fourteenth
0.066666... 1/15 One fifteenth
0.0625 1/16 One sixteenth, six-hundred-[and-]twenty-five ten-thousandths, [zero] point zero six two five
0.055555... 1/18 One eighteenth
0.05 1/20 One twentieth, five hundredths, [zero] point zero five
0.047619047619... 1/21 One twenty-first
0.045454545... 1/22 One twenty-second
0.043478260869565217391304347... 1/23 One twenty-third
0.041666... 1/24 One twenty-fourth
0.04 1/25 One twenty-fifth, four hundredths, [zero] point zero four
0.033333... 1/30 One thirtieth
0.03125 1/32 One thirty-second, thirty one-hundred [and] twenty five hundred-thousandths, [zero] point zero three one two five
0.03 3/100 Three hundredths, [zero] point zero three
0.025 1/40 One fortieth, twenty-five thousandths, [zero] point zero two five
0.02 1/50 One fiftieth, two hundredths, [zero] point zero two
0.016666... 1/60 One sixtieth
0.015625 1/64 One sixty-fourth, ten thousand fifty six-hundred [and] twenty-five millionths, [zero] point zero one five six two five
0.012345679012345679... 1/81 One eighty-first
0.010101... 1/99 One ninety-ninth
0.01 1/100 One hundredth, [zero] point zero one, One percent
0.009900990099... 1/101 One hundred-first
0.008264462809917355371900... 1/121 One over one hundred twenty-one
0.001 1/1000 One thousandth, [zero] point zero zero one, One permille
0.000277777... 1/3600 One thirty-six hundredth
0.0001 1/10000 One ten-thousandth, [zero] point zero zero zero one, One myriadth, one permyria, one permyriad, one basis point
0.00001 1/100000 One hundred-thousandth, [zero] point zero zero zero zero one, One lakhth, one perlakh
0.000001 1/1000000 One millionth, [zero] point zero zero zero zero zero one, One ppm
0.0000001 1/10000000 One ten-millionth, One crorth, one percrore
0.00000001 1/100000000 One hundred-millionth
0.000000001 1/1000000000 One billionth (in some dialects), One ppb
0.000000000001 1/1000000000000 One trillionth, One ppt
0 0/1 Zero, Nil

Other numeralsEdit

Various terms have arisen to describe commonly used measured quantities.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Charles Follen: A Practical Grammar of the German Language. Boston, 1828, p. 9, p. 44 and 48. Quote: "PARTS OF SPEECH. There are ten parts of speech, viz. Article, Substantive or Noun, Adjective, Numeral, Pronoun, Verb, Adverb, Preposition, Conjunction, and Interjection.", "NUMERALS. The numbers are divided into cardinal, ordinal, proportional, distributive, and collective. [...] Numerals of proportion and distribution are [...] &c. Observation. The above numerals, in fach or fäl´tig, are regularly declined, like other adjectives."
  2. ^ Horace Dalmolin: The New English Grammar: With Phonetics, Morphology and Syntax, Tate Publishing & Enterprises, 2009, p. 175 & p. 177. Quote: "76. The different types of words used to compose a sentence, in order to relate an idea or to convey a thought, are known as parts of speech. [...] The parts of speech, with a brief definition, will follow. [...] 87. Numeral: Numerals are words that express the idea of number. There are two types of numerals: cardinal and ordinal. The cardinal numbers (one, two, three...) are used for counting people, objects, etc. Ordinal numbers (first, second, third...) can indicate order, placement in rank, etc."
  3. ^ a b "What is a numeral?".
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c Blunt, Joseph (1 January 1837). "The Shipmaster's Assistant, and Commercial Digest: Containing Information Useful to Merchants, Owners, and Masters of Ships". E. & G.W. Blunt – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Ezard, John (2 Jan 2003). "Tolkien catches up with his hobbit". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 Apr 2018.

Further readingEdit