Arabic numbers III: 11-1000

If you’re looking for the numbers 1-10, and you should before you read this, go here.

When it comes to the higher numbers, everything after ۱۰ (10) follows some kind of pattern, so after we get through the teens I’ll only be showing a few examples to illustrate the pattern.

11-19; as in English, where we say “thirteen” or “three-ten,” Arabic will say ثلاثة عشر (thalāthah ʿashr, literally “three-ten”). Unlike English, Arabic doesn’t break the patter for “eleven” and “twelve,” and good for Arabic in my opinion.

English name

Western Arabic numeral

Eastern Arabic numeral

Arabic name

Arabic name transliterated

eleven

11

۱۱

أحَد عَشر

aḥad ʿashr

twelve

12

۱۲

اِثنا عشر

ithnā ʿashr

thirteen

13

۱۳

ثَلاثة عشر

thalāthah ʿashr

fourteen

14

۱٤

أربَعة عشر

arbaʿah ʿashr

fifteen

15

 ۱۵

خَمْسة عشر

khamsah ʿashr

sixteen

16

۱٦

سِتّة عشر

sittah ʿashr

seventeen

17

۱۷

سَبعة عشر

sabʿah ʿashr

eighteen

18

۱۸

ثَمانية عشر

thamāniyah ʿashr

nineteen

19

۱۹

تِسعة عشر

tisʿah ʿashr

Now we can count up by tens:

  • 20 (twenty): عَشرون (ʿashrūn) or ۲۰
  • 30 (thirty): ثَلاثون (thalāthūn) or ۳۰
  • 40 (forty): أربَعون (arbaʿūn) or ٤۰
  • 50 (fifty): خَمسون (khamsūn) or ۵۰
  • 60 (sixty): سِتّون (sittūn) or ٦۰
  • 70 (seventy): سَبعون (sabʿūn) or ۷۰
  • 80 (eighty): ثَمانون (thamānūn) or ۸۰
  • 90 (ninety): تِسعون (tisʿūn) or ۹۰

And now by hundreds:

  • 100 (one hundred): مِئة (miʾah or, more archaically, مائة) or ۱۰۰
  • 200: مئتان (miʾatān — dual form of مئة) or ۲۰۰
  • 300: ثلاث مئة (thalāth miʾah) or ۳۰۰
  • 400: أربع مئة (arbaʿ miʾah) or ٤۰۰
  • 500: خمس مئة (khams miʾah) or ۵۰۰
  • 600: ستّ مئة (sitt miʾah) or ٦۰۰
  • 700: سبع مئة (sabʿ miʾah) or ۷۰۰
  • 800: ثمان مئة (thamān miʾah) or ۸۰۰
  • 900: تسع مئة (tisʿ miʾah) or ۹۰۰
  • 1000 (one thousand): ألف (alf) or ۱۰۰۰

When you’re stringing numbers together you just use a lot of “ands,” and you read largest to smallest until you get to the tens and singles places, which are inverted, like so:

  • 28 (twenty-eight): ۲۸ (ثمانية و عشرون, thamāniyah wa ʿishrūn)
  • 51 (fifty-one): ۵۱ (واحد و خَمسون, wāḥid wa khamsūn)
  • 739 (seven hundred thirty-nine): ۷۳۹ (سبع مئة و تسعة و ثلاثون, sabʿ miʾah wa tisʿah wa thalāthūn)

To somebody accustomed to a left-to-right writing system, it seems like Arabic strangely writes its large numerals left-to-right (above, “739” is ۷۳۹), even though the rest of the language is written from right-to-left. Like many things in Arabic, it’s best if you just roll with it.

When counting things with these higher numbers, you counter-intuitively follow the number with the singular noun, in indefinite accusative (direct object) case, and the singles digit part of the whole number takes the opposite gender as the noun. I know; again, just try not to think about it. For example, “73 books” (book is a masculine noun, كتاب) would be ثلاثة و سبعون كتاباً (thalāthah wa sabʿūn kitāban), and “57 magazines” (magazine is a feminine noun, مجلّة) would be ًسبع و خمسون مجلّة (sabʿ wa khamsūn majallatan).

Arabic numbers II: the ordinals

Last time we dealt with the cardinal numbers, which have to do with quantity. There’s a second aspect to numbers, the ordinals, which have to do with rank or position in sequence. So in English we have “one, two, three, four, etc.,” and “first, second, third, fourth, etc.” Arabic is no different. The Arabic ordinal numbers are formed by taking the tri-consonant root (فعل) of the name of the cardinal number, and turning it into a form I active participle (فاعِل), except for “first,” which is irregular. Since ordinals are adjectives and have to correspond to the gendered nouns they are modifying, they can take the feminine marker (usually ة, though the feminine form of “first” is, again, irregular) when needed. Below are masculine and feminine singular (can ordinal numbers ever be plural? they’re always by definition describing just one item in a sequence, right?) forms for the ordinal numbers from “first” through “tenth” (no “zeroeth,” sorry):

First = أوَّل (awwal); أولى (ūlá)

Second = ثاني (thānī); ثانية (thānīyah)

Third = ثالِث (thālith); ثالِثة (thālithah)

Fourth = رابِع (rābiʿ); رابِعة (rābiʿah)

Fifth = خامِس (khāmis); خامِسة (khāmisah)

Sixth = سادِس (sādis); سادِسة (sādisah)

Seventh = سابِع (sābiʿ); سابِعة (sābiʿah)

Eighth = ثامِن (thāmin); ثامِنة (thāminah)

Ninth = تاسِع (tāsiʿ); تاسِعة (tāsiʿah)

Tenth = عاشِر (ʿāshir); عاشِرة (ʿāshirah)

If there’s a way to represent these numerically, as we do in English with 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so on, I’ve never seen it.

Arabic Numbers and Numerals, 0-10

If you’re looking for higher numbers, they’re here.

So I’m being somewhat misleading with that post title, since what we’re really going to be learning are the Eastern Arabic numerals; presumably anybody reading this already knows the Western Arabic numerals, since they’re the ones we use in English. Arabs took the Indian numeric system, made some alterations, and then passed a variant of that system on to Europeans, which is why we call them “Arabic numerals” instead of “Indian numerals,” despite the fact that they ultimately come from India. In the Arab countries of the Maghrib (basically all of North Africa west of Egypt), these are the numerals that are used. In Egypt and points east, however, different (but related, you can see the similarities)  numerals are used, which in Arabic are called أرقام هِندية (arqām hindīyah), or “Indian numerals” (“numeral” is رُقْم ruqm, plural أرقام arqām). The table below shows names and numerals for the numbers from 0-10 (teens will have to wait for another time).

In addition to رُقْم, “number” can also be translated as عَدَد (ʿadad), plural أعداد (aʿdād).

English name

Western Arabic numeral

Eastern Arabic numeral

Arabic name

Arabic name transliterated

zero

0

۰

صِفْر

ṣifr

one

1

۱

واحِد

wāḥid

two

2

۲

إثْنان

ithnān

three

3

۳

ثَلاثة

thalāthah

four

4

٤ (variant: ۴)

أربَعة

arbaʿah

five

5

۵

خَمْسة

khamsah

six

6

٦ (variant: ۶)

سِتّة

sittah

seven

7

۷

سَبعة

sabʿah

eight

8

۸

ثَمانية

thamāniyah

nine

9

۹

تِسعة

tisʿah

ten

10

۱۰

عَشْرة

ʿashrah

Note that 4 and 6 have alternate forms; these are more commonly encountered in Persian but may be found in Arabic as well.

Unfortunately, counting things from 1-10 is a little tricky. Well, I should say counting things from 3-10 is tricky; for 1 of something you just used the singular noun, with the number 1 if you want to emphasize its singularity, and for two of something you use the special dual form of the noun. For example:

  • كتاب (kitāb) or واحد كتاب (wāḥid kitāb) = “one book”
  • كتابان (kitābān) = “two books”

However, from 3-10 you have to use the plural form of the noun, and you have to match the opposite gender of the noun for some reason (don’t ask me). So “four books” would be أربعة كُتُب (arbaʿah kutub) with the number in the feminine, but four magazines (singular مَجَلّة, majallah) would be أربع مجلّات (arbaʿ majallāt), with the number in the masculine.