Really BIG Numbers in Latin

How do you say 4, 800, 000 in Latin?

Large numbers in Latin work with numeral adverbs + units of mīllle.

  • 4,800,000, octīens et quadrāgiēns centēna mīlia
  • 5,900,487, noviēns et quīnquāgiēns centēna mīlia quadrigentī octōgintā septem.

Note that, because we don’t happen to possess a large number of fifth-grade math books from Rome, the most common place you’ll see numbers this large are records describing large sums of sestertia.

In these descriptions, the centēna mīlia is often omitted.

  • 3,300,000 sestertia = ter et trīciēns sestertium = ter et trīciēns (centēna mīlia) sestertium = thrice and thirty times 100,000
  • 2.7 billion sestertia = vīciēns ac septiēs mīliēns sestertium

(If anyone can explain why it’s sestertium and not sestertia, I’m all ears.)

For more on money matters, see my post on money.

https://latinforaddicts.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/roman-currency/

The Essential AG: 138a

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Numeral Adverbs

There are four central aspects to the Latin numeral:

  • The cardinal: ūnus, duo, trēs, quattuor
  • The ordinal: prīmus, secundus, tertius, quārtus
  • The distributive: singulī, bīnī, ternī, quaternī
  • The adverb: semel, bis, ter, quater

What is are numeral adverbs?

  • Like English numeral adverbs, Latin numeral adverbs answer the question ‘how many times was something done?’
  • How many times does Scylla engulf the strait each day? Thrice. [She does action x three times.]

[Side note: I first discovered the word ‘thrice’ while reading Homer in 6th grade. It’s probably the only moment of ‘word recognition’ that I can remember having. Does anyone else have stories about learning new words as a kid? I’d love to hear them in the comments.]
Here are the Latin adverbs (they answer quotiēns / quotiēs? How many times?).
1-10

  • once, semel
  • twice, bis
  • thrice, ter
  • four times, quater
  • five times, quīnuiēns (or quīnquiēs, and sic for all numeral adverbs in -ēns)
  • six times, sexiēns
  • seven times, septiēns
  • eight times, octiēns
  • nine times, noviēns
  • ten times, deciēns

11-19

  • eleven times, ūndeciēns
  • twelve times, duodeciēns
  • thirteen times, terdeciēns
  • fourteen times, quaterdeciēns
  • fifteen times, quīndeciēns
  • sixteen times, sēdeciēns
  • seventeen times, septiēnsdeciēns
  • eighteen times, duodēvīciēns
  • nineteen times, ūndēvīciēns

20-99

  • twenty times, vīciēns
  • twenty-one times, semel vīciēns or vīcīens et semel or vīciēns semel (and sic for all numbers 21-99)
  • twenty-two times, bis vīciēns
  • twenty-nine times, ūndētrīciēns
  • thirty times, trīciēns
  • forty times, quadrāgiēns
  • fifty times, quīnquāgiēns
  • sixty times, sexāgiēns
  • seventy times, septuāgiēns
  • eighty times, octōgiēns
  • ninety times, nōnāgiēns

100+

  • 100 times, centiēns
  • 200 times, ducentiēns
  • 300 times, trecentiēns
  • 400 times, quadringentiēns
  • 500 times, quīngentiēns
  • 600 times, sescentiēns
  • 700 times, septingentiēns
  • 800 times, octingentiēns
  • 900 times, nōngentiēns
  • 1000 times, mīliēns
  • 2000 times, bis mīliēns
  • 10,000 times, deciēns mīliēns

Fractions in Latin

This was totally new to me, but apparently they are the same as in English.

cardinal / numeral = 3 / 4 = three / fourths.
All fractions use the feminine gender nouns (as though partēs).

  • 2/7 = duae septimae
  • 3/11 = trēs ūndecimae
  • 19/13 = ūndēvīgintī tertiae decimae
  • 5/104 = quīnque centēnsimae quartae

Here’s one exception: fraction with 1 in the numerator

  • 1/2 = dīmidia pars or dīmdium
  • 1/3 = tertia pars
  • 1/4 = quarta pars
  • 1/6 = sexta pars
  • 1/8 = octava pars

1/2 is altogether exceptional, but the rest of 1/x fractions all read neuter plural + pars

Ok, now here’s another exception:

When the fraction is x / x + 1, the fraction reads ordinal (agreeing with partēs) + partēs

  • 2/3 = duae partēs
  • 12/13 = duodecimae partēs
  • 56/57 = quīnquāgēnsimae sextae partēs

But weight, there’s more! There are also a host of special nouns used to describe fractions of weight, coin value or land distribution. (A&G aren’t explicit if they can be used to measure other fractions—does anyone know?)

There are a lot of them. Sorry.

  • 1/12 uncia, -ae
  • 1/6 sextāns, -antis
  • 1/4 quadrāns, -antis
  • 1/3 triēns, -entis
  • 5/12 quīncunx, -unctis
  • 1/2 sēmis, -missis
  • 7/12 septunx, -unctis
  • 2/3 bēs or bēssis, bēssis
  • 2/3 dōdrāns, -antis
  • 5/6 dextāns, -antis
  • 11/12 deunx, -unctis
  • 12/12 as, assis

The Essential AG: 135e, 637

Ordinal Numerals

There are four central aspects to the Latin numeral:

  • The cardinal: ūnus, duo, trēs, quattuor
  • The ordinal: prīmus, secundus, tertius, quārtus
  • The distributive: singulī, bīnī, ternī, quaternī
  • The adverb: semel, bis, ter, quater

Ordinals are derived from cardinals, and operate as declining adjectives, in the manner of bonus, -a, -um

  • The suffixes attached to cardinals are often very similar to superlative suffixes (e.g. ūndēvīcēnsimus, 19th)

The Ordinals 1st-10th

  • 1st: prīmus, -a, -um
  • 2nd: secundus, -a, -um or alter, altera, alterum (remember alterīus is the genitive for all genders)
  • 3rd: tertius, -a, -um
  • 4th: quārtus, -a, -um
  • 5th: quīntus, -a, -um
  • 6th: sextus, -a, -um
  • 7th: septimus, -a, -um
  • 8th: octāvus, -a, -um
  • 9th: nōnus, -a, -um
  • 10th: decimus, -a, -um

A few fun notes on these:

  • The cardinal prīmus is an archaic superlative from prō
  • The cardinal secundus is exactly what it appears to be—the future passive participle of sequor (to follow)
  • The cardinal alter is a comparative form (like with the Greek -τερος)
  • The cardinal nōnus is a contraction of novenus

Cardinals 11th-19th

  • 11th: ūndecimus, -a, -um
  • 12th: duodecimus, -a, -um
  • 13th: tertius, -a, -um decimus, -a, -um or decimus et tertius or decimus tertius
  • (thus, both words decline and have three double-declining variations with 14th-19th)
  • 14th: quārtus decimus
  • 15th: quīntus decimus
  • 16th: sextus decimus
  • 17th: septimus decimus
  • 18th: duodēvicēnsimus, -a, -um or octāvus decimus, etc.
  • 19th: ūndēvicēnsimus, -a, -um or nōnus decimus, etc.

Cardinals 20th-100th

  • 20th: vīcēnsimus, -a, -um
  • 21st: vīcēnsimus, -a, um prīmus, -a, -um or ūnus et vīcēnsimus 
  • (thus, we have two distinct options from 11th – 19th, with (a) cardinal tens -> cardinal ones reversed or (b) ordinal ones -> cardinal tens; both terms will decline, where possible, for all cardinals 22nd-99th)
  • 28th: duodētrīcēnsimus, -a, -um or the other two options
  • 29th: ūndētrīcēnsimus, -a, -um
  • 30th: trīcēnsimus, -a, -um
  • 40th: quadrāgēnsimus, -a, -um
  • 50th: quīnquāgēnsimus, -a, -um
  • 60th: sexāgēnsimus, -a, -um
  • 70th: septuāgensimus, -a, -um
  • 80th: octōgēnsimus, -a, -um
  • 90th: nōnāgēnsimus, -a, -um
  • 100th: cēntēnsimus, -a, -um

A few fun notes on these:

  • Again, note the distinct sets of options for the 11th-19th crowd and the 21st+ crowd: with 21st+, you get a mix of ordinals and cardinals, which can only lead to a really bad hangover…
  • Whitaker’s Words suggests ūnetvīcēnsimus, -a, -um is an alternative form of 21st, though that may be Medieval only
  • A few only sources suggest that the (n) in the 40th/50th/etc. is optional: quadrāgē(n)simus, -a, -um, though I should note that A&G don’t mention this

Ordinals 101st -1000th

  • 101st: centēnsimus, -a, -um prīmus, -a, -um or ūnus et centēnsimus
  • 113th: centēnsimus et tertius decimus or centēnsimus et decimus tertius
  • (basically, we have a pattern very similar to 21st-99th, though recall that once we have three words in play, that et will only appears between the two highest denominations, so you will never see centēnsimus et decimus et tertius)
  • (also, to be explicit, everything continues to decline, where possible)
  • 200th: ducentēnsimus, -a, -um
  • 300th: trecentēnsimus, -a, -um
  • 400th: quadrigentēnsimus-, -a, -um
  • 500th: quīngentēnsimus, -a, -um
  • 600th: sescentēnsimus, -a, -um
  • 700th: septigentēnsimus, -a, -um
  • 800th: octigentēnsimus, -a, -um
  • 900th: nōngentēnsimus, -a, -um
  • 1000th: mīllēnsimus, -a, -um

I’ll get to the 1000+ crowd eventually, though it involves multiplicative forms, so brace yourself.

The Essential AG: 133

Cardinal Numerals, 11-100,000’s

There are four central aspects to the Latin numeral:

  • The cardinal: ūnus, duo, trēs, quattuor
  • The ordinal: prīmus, secundus, tertius, quārtus
  • The distributive: singulī, bīnī, ternī, quaternī
  • The adverb: semel, bis, ter, quater

The numerals 11-19 are indeclinable:

  • note that 18 and 19 start counting back from twenty, while the others count up from ten
  • French and Spanish (and other Romance languages?) also seem to freak out and shift form somewhere after 15; I’m not sure why no one thought a standardized 11-19 was a good idea

The numerals 20-100 are expressed as follows; bases of ten do not decline:

To achieve a number like 85, the Romans have two preferred methods:

  • tens+ ones= (octōgintā quīnque mīlitēs)
  • ones + et + tens =(quīnque et octōgintā mīlitēs)
  • note that octōgintā et quīnque (a third option) is less common, but may appear
  • also, note that numbers like 28 and 29 nine subtract as 18 and 19 above: duodētrīgintā, ūndētrīgintā, ūndēoctōgintā (79), etc.

The hundreds above 100 decline as adjectives like bonus, bona, bonum

Mille is an odd bird: it’s indeclinable as a singular (mīlle mīlitēs) but declines as a neuter plural (tria mīlia mīlitum)

  • Note that there’s no typo here (though I am prone to typos): the singular mīlle has two l‘s; the plural mīlia/mīlium/mīlibus/mīlia/mīlibus has only one.
  • He came with a thousand soldiers: cum mīlle mīlitibus vēnit.
  • To express this sentence with three thousand, we decline tria mīlia and make mīles a partitive gentive
  • He cam with three thousand soldiers: cum tribus mīlibus mīlitum vēnit.

To express numbers with three digits or more:

If et appears anywhere, it appears only between the two highest demoninations:

  • 1776: mīlle (et) septigentī septuāgintā sex
  • 2012: duo mīlia (et) duodecim

Cardinal Numerals, 1-10

There are four central aspects to the Latin numeral:

  • The cardinal: ūnus, duo, trēs, quattuor
  • The ordinal: prīmus, secundus, tertius, quārtus
  • The distributive: singulī, bīnī, ternī, quaternī
  • The adverb: semel, bis, ter, quater

From 1-10, only cardinals 1, 2, and 3 decline.

A few things to consider:

  • ūnus will often mean ‘only’ (cf. sōlus) and occasionally ‘the same’ (cf. idem)
  • where ūnus means ‘only,’ it may initiate a subjunctive clause of characteristic (the only man who may: ūnus cuī liceat.)
  • the compound ūnus quisque = every single one
  • the compound ūnus + superlative = the one most (the one most learned man, ūnus doctissiumus)
  • duo may also have the plural genitive duum
  • the word ambō (both, which retains the long ō of the lost Latin dual) declines like duo
  • the compound ūnus + superlative = the one most (ūnus doctissiumus, the one most learned man)

Here’s a chart I found showing the descendents of the Latin cardinals:

(courtesy N.S. Gill; http://tiny.cc/eoiqmw)(For those of you who are curious, there are between 30 and 40 standing Romance languages, but we’ll get to numbers above 10 next post…)

The Essential AG: 133-4