Latin Distributives

These are difficult, and I’m not sure I grasp all of their aspects. If you’d like, feel free to expand or correct me in comments.

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 distributive describes how many each or how many apiece. It’s a numeral of rate.

  • The children received candy, one each: puerī mellīta accēpērunt, singula singulīs

Note a few things:

  • The distributive numerals are plural adjectives, here matching mellīta (singula) and puerī (–> puerīs) (singulīs)
  • They decline like the plural of bonus, -a, -um

The distributive are used to multiply, featured in the formula numeral adverb + distributive:

  • 2 x 2 = bis bīna
  • 3 x 7 = ter septēna

The poets also use distributives in place of cardinals, to express sets.

  • He threw two shafts (in a set): bīna hastīlia torsit.

Distributives 1-10

  • one each, singulī, -ae, -a
  • two each, bīnī, -ae, -a
  • three each, ternī, -ae, -a or trīnī, -ae, -a
  • four each, quaternī, -ae, -a
  • five each, quīnī, -ae, -a
  • six each, sēnī, -ae, -a
  • seven each, septēnī, -ae, -a
  • eight each, octōnī, -ae, -a
  • nine each, novēnī, -ae, -a
  • ten each, dēnī, -ae, -a

Distributives 11-99

  • eleven each, ūndēnī, -ae, -a
  • twelve each, duodēnī, -ae, -a
  • thirteen each, ternī dēnī, ternae dēnae, etc.
  • eighteen each, octōnī dēnī or duodēvīcēnī, -ae, -a
  • nineteen each, novēnī dēnī or ūndēvīcēni, -ae, -a
  • twenty each, vīcēnī, -ae, -a
  • twenty-one each, vīcēnī singulī, vīcēnae singulae, etc.
  • thirty each, trīcēnī, -ae, -a
  • fourty each, quadrāgēnī, -ae, -a
  • fifty each, quīnquāgēnī, -ae, -a
  • sixty each, sexāgēnī, -ae, -a
  • seventy each, septuāgēnī, -ae, -a
  • eighty each, octōgēnī, -ae, -a
  • ninety each, nōnāgēnī, -ae, -a

Distributives 100+

  • 100 each, centēnī, -ae, -a
  • 200 each, ducēnī, -ae, -a
  • 300 each, trecēnī, -ae, a
  • 400 each, quadringēnī, -ae, -a
  • 500 each, quīngēnī, -ae, -a
  • 600 each, sescēnī, -ae, -a
  • 700 each, septingēnī, -ae, -a
  • 800 each, octingēnī, -ae, -a
  • 900 each, nongēnī, -ae, -a
  • 1,000 each, mīllēnī, -ae, -a
  • 2,000 each bīna mīlia
  • 100,000 each centēna mīlia

The Essential AG: 136

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.

The Essential AG: 138a