Latin Numbers

The next step to learning Latin is understanding Latin numbers. Latin numbers are essentially adjectives as they are in English, and so we will treat them as such. However, there are some nuances that must be addressed. Topics in this article include:

  • Role of Numbers
  • Numbers and Numerals
  • Types of Numbers
  • Learning the Numbers
    • One through Ten
    • Declining One and Two
  • In Sentences

Role of Numbers

Numbers are like adjectives in nearly every way. They describe nouns. The only difference is that numbers answer a different question than conventional adjectives. Rather than answering qualitative characteristics, numbers answer quantitative characteristics. Rather than specifying how a group of people are (ie. happy or sad), we want to know how many of the people there are, or perhaps in what order they are in. Numbers answer these questions.

As with normal adjectives, numbers may appear after the noun they modify in sentences on this dictionary. The sentence below shows how many girls a father has.

Sentence Latin Equivalent
The father has four girls. Pater puellas quattuor habet.

We could have easily said that the father had girls, but we wanted to know how many girls he had, so the number four specifies how many girls there are, modifying that noun.

Numbers and Numerals

In English, numbers have two forms: the word form and the numeric form. For instance, "ten" is the word form, and "10" is the numeric form. Latin has the same structure, except that the numerals are much different from English. First of all, the Romans had no zero; the Latin adjective nullus was sufficient. Second, the Romans used letters instead of a different set of symbols to represent numerical values.

To write numbers in Latin in numeric form, one must understand the system. For instance, consider the Latin number below:


This is the Latin numeral for 3. As we can see, it is composed of three I's. In Latin each I is represented by 1, so this numeral is essentially the sum of three I's, or 1+1+1. Therefore, it is important to know what letters stand for what numbers.

Latin Letter Equivalent Number
I 1
V 5
X 10
L 50
C 100
D 500
M 1000

Under this system, XXV would be 10+10+5, which is 25. A couple of notes: the Romans always wrote numbers from largest value to smallest value, and they always used the least amount of letters possible. So in other words, VMX is invalid and should be written as MXV; also, VV is invalid since it can be represented by a single X.

There are some special instances, however. The Romans did not use IIII to represent 4. Instead, they used the Latin numeral IV. But wait, doesn't this add up to 6, and isn't it in the incorrect order anyway?

When you see a numeral of less degree than another proceed it, then it means subtract the smaller value from the larger one. In other words, IV actually means 5-1, which is four. VI would be 5+1, which is six. Similarly, IX would mean 9; XLV means 50-10+5, or 45.

Just as in English, every number has a word equivalent, which we will learn about next.

Number Types

Just as there are types of nouns, verbs, and adjectives, there are also types of numbers as well. And just as in the other three things, different types of numbers have different forms, though these types of numbers also serve different purposes. You can see these types below, comparing the number two:

Type Description Two
Cardinal These simply tell how much of something there is, giving direct quantity to a group. Duo
Ordinal Ordinal numbers determine in what order a series of things are in, usually specifying the position of a particular thing. Secundus
Distributive These denote a number that belong to each of several groups. They also have other purposes. Bini
Adverb These are used adverbially, describing verbs rather than nouns (ie. running twice). Bis

For now, we will only worry about Cardinal numbers, most of which do not decline.

The Numbers

The chart below shows the first ten Cardinal numbers in Latin. The chart on the Number Reference page expands on this chart.

Number Latin
One Unus
Two Duo
Three Tres
Four Quattuor
Five Quinque
Six Sex
Seven Septem
Eight Octo
Nine Novem
Ten Decem

You may remember in the Adjectives I session that adjectives must match their respective noun in case, number, and gender. Since cardinal numbers are essentially quantitative adjectives, the same rule applies. However, most numbers do not decline; in other words, for most numbers the form given above is the same regardless of case, number, or gender! Quinque is the only form of the cardinal number five available, so regardless of case, number1, or gender, the form "quinque" will be used.

However, a handful of these numbers do decline: one, two, and three. Furthermore, numbers starting at 200 and up may also be declinable, but that is for later. These numbers decline as normal adjectives do:

  • Unus is a First/Second I adjective
  • Duo is an Irregular adjective
  • Tres is a Third adjective

For now, since we have only dealt with First/Second adjectives, we will pay attention to one and two; when you learn Third adjectives, you will be able to decline three.

Unus is a First/Second I adjective, which differs only slightly from First/Second adjectives. Essentially, the nominative and accusative forms will be the same as normal. However, it differs in the dative (for later) and genitive cases. In the genitive, instead of using the -i, -ae, -i endings in the singular, all of the singular genitive forms end in -ius. So, the chart shows the nominative, accusative, and genitive forms for Unus:

Feminine Masculine Neuter
Nominative Una Unus Unum
Genitive Unius Unius Unius
Accusative Unam Unum Unum

Duo is actually an Irregular adjective; though it does slightly resemble First/Second adjectives in the plural, it actually forms quite differently in the dative and ablative forms. For now, we will stick with the conventional nominative, accusative, and genitive trio. Notice how duo is always plural:

Feminine Masculine Neuter
Nominative Duae Duo Duo
Genitive Duarum Duorum Duorum
Accusative Duas Duo/Duos Duo

Now, identify the correct translations of the numbers below which are used in sentences.

English Latin
I have six books. Libros sex habeo.
Jane annoys her five brothers. Iane fratres quinque suos vexat.
The man hurts the dog of his two friends. Vir canem amicorum duorum suorum dolet.
I gave her seven roses. Ei rosas septem dedi.
The three families dine. Familiae tres cenant.
Max has one sister. Max sororem unam habet.

Numbers in Sentences

Using numbers in sentences doesn't really differ that much from using adjectives in sentences. The only difference is that most of the numbers have only one form which is used universally. Perhaps the only major complication that could occur is below:

  • Pueri octo canes ambulant.

Technically speaking, word order in Latin is very loose. Since some of the numbers only have one form, it may be difficult to ascertain to which noun the number belongs. For instance, does "octo" describe how many boys or how many dogs? Conventionally on the Latin Dictionary, adjectives will directly follow their respective noun, so in this case we have eight boys walking some dogs. However, Latin poets and other texts do not necessarily follow this convention, so the sentence could become ambiguous, especially if more were added to the sentence.

Try your hand on translating some of the sentences below:

Sentence Translation
The boy has two dreams. Puer somnia duo habet.
The woman prepares the four girls. Femina puellas quattuor parat.
The good man gives his2 one shoe. Vir bonus calceum unum suum dat.
I am one man. Vir unus sum.
The six small girls have good form. Puellae parvae sex formam bonam habent.
The old man fears the ten angry boys. Vir antiquus pueros iratos decem timet.
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