Are numbers universal?

NetherCraft 0

Do different languages have different symbols to represent numbers, especically if they use different characters, eg Chinese, Russian, Greek etc. Apart from Roman Numerals, are there any others?

16 Answers

  • The system you are used to comes from India. They got their way to Europe through Arabia, and thus they are called Arabic numbers. At the same time, in Arabic (same as Persian) they use somewhat different numbers which are more similar to their writing system.

    Further, as you mentioned those languages who use different scripts for writing also have their numerals, it is especially true for the old languages, such as Armenian and Ethiopian (Ge’ez). Armenians use their alphabet: first nine letters are for 1-9, next nine for 10, 20, … , 90; then come the hundreds; and the last nine letters are used for the thousands. Thus they can write from 1 to 9999. However, they cannot write more than that and also they don’t have zero. Somewhat similar was introduced to Cyrilic (the one you call Russian), but it never got into use. Ethiopian numerals look different but have the same decile system as base (similar to Arabic), i.e. they have 0-9 and all the other numbers are like with Arabic numbers.

    Somewhat different is the case with Far Eastern numerals: Chinese, Japanese and Koreans have their own numerals which are part of their language (special characters). They are used in traditional writings and especially when they write vertically. However, Arabic numerals are widely used nowadays.

    It is widely believed that the ancient languages like Babylonian and Egyptian had their numerals. Even, if it is true they are out of use now.

    For more details you can check Wikipedia articles (say, Chinese numerals).

    Generally, ‘yes’ different languages also use different numerals!

  • Even though you have said except languages like Russian and Greek, if a Greek or Russian person were to write the year 1986, it would be written exactly like that. not in any special symbols. The same with languages like Arabic. Roman numerals are different you wouldn’t find them being used as convetional numbers in any modern languages, so I would say definitely numbers are universal.

  • As some others have already pointed out, not all cultures use Arabic numerals as we do in English. Compare Japanese, for example:

    1 一

    2 二

    3 三

    4 四

    5 五

    6 六

    7 七

    8 八

    9 九

    10 十

    On the other hand some cultures (like the Pirahã in Brazil) don’t even have WORDS for numbers, so they don’t have symbols for them at all:,1518…

  • Many eastern countries have their own way of writing numbers. Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Mongolia, and even India, whose numbers our modern numbers are based on have their own ways of writing numbers. These numbers are often used on money and when writing out words (sort of like we will write “1” as “one”. However most people in the world use the arabic numberals (i.e. 1234..) for doing math and are so universally understood. The reason being oddly enough that it is the only number system with the number zero.

  • Different symbols but not different numbers. Remember the Romans!

  • Arabic numbers are different, I can’t show you as I haven’t got the symbols on my keyboard.If you go to Dubai you’ll see these on road signs and registration numbers etc.

    I can try to show you

    0 = .

    6 = 7

    7 = V

    8 = ^ …… these aren’t exact but give you an idea.

    Go to the website Paul B has shown you, check out the Arabic numbers.

  • The symbols are the same for every language that uses the same alphabet!

    Symbols that are the same for English, French, German, Italian, Dutch, etc.


    Symbols that are the same for Arabic and Farsi.


    Symbols that are the same for Sanskrit and Hindi.


  • 1

  • yes numbers are different and pronouncation. however so many languagwes are trying to change their numbers to the numbers we use in the english language becuase these numbers are percieved to be international numbers.

  • १ २ ३ ४ ५ ६ ७ ८ ९ ० = 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,0

    this is called Devanagari (“from the City of the Gods”) and it is used to write in Sanskrit, Hindi, and other Indian languages.

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