Talk:Roman numerals/Archive 3

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A note about Unicode roman numeral symbols

Ⅱ Ⅲ Ⅳ Ⅴ Ⅵ Ⅶ Ⅷ Ⅸ Ⅹ Ⅺ Ⅻ are all in unicode.

But don't replace the ISO Roman numerals with them. Morwen says they have been deprecated from Day 1 and are there just for compatibility issues. WhisperToMe 17:20, 1 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Are ISO Roman numerals from an ISO standard?--Jusjih 08:38, 16 February 2006 (UTC)


This article was just cited in an Associated Press story today,with its mention of a supposed Roman ruler ordering a change from "IV" to "IIII",which as I understood it was older(subtractive notation being an innovation even if during classical times).However,the article refers to an "incorrectly" made Roman times there were sundials,but not clocks!(Could the ruler have been more modern?)--L.E./

I just corrected (= deleted) this. IIII was very common before the middel ages. It was only in the middel ages that roman numerals where "standarized". When mulitiplication and division became important the rules listed on the page where developed. For a roman it was much more natural to actually write IIII than IV. Generally romans didn't like subtractions. And they even wrote IC for 99. It was a bit more normal to use IX than IV, but VIIII was still heavilly used. Maybe a new section ought to be added about Roman numberals as used in the ancient times. (That is: write so you are understod as the only rule it seems.) Many of these variations have survived because people tend to see them in old books and arcitetctual places. Anyone that understands norwegian might want to incorporate some of the information there about older practices from there.

I noticed that the clock section says it's traditional to use "IIII" rather than "IV" on clocks, and gives a number of reasons why. But I've never seen a clock with "IIII" on it. All the Roman numeral clock faces I've ever seen had "IV" on them. Is this something that was done in Classical times (on sundials, I guess), or is this a European/American thing or something? -- 22:03, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

The Romans had both sundials and clocks (notwithstanding any article - online or otherwise - which says they had only sundials). Their water clocks (clepsydrae) were based on Graeco-Egyptian patterns, often fairly ingenious in design and manufacture, and could be mechanically sophisticated. There's an excellent Wiki article on them.

Pompey Magnus is known to have off-handedly requested a clepsydra to curtail the long-winded speechifying of senators in debates. Further references to these timepieces may be found in any decent encyclopedia, or from original citations (free of charge) online at the Perseus website at Perseus-Tofts; enter its Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary database using clepsydra as search term. Once the entry is found, pointers lead to various other publications for cross-referencing. dmadams 00:57, 27 January 2006 (UTC)

Is MIM ok for 1999?

The article said:

Some rules regarding Roman numerals state that a symbol representing 10x may not precede any symbol larger than 10x+1. For example, one should represent the number "ninety-nine" as XCIX, not IC. However, these rules are not universally applied.

The last sentence is wrong. MIM for 1999 is not kosher, any way you look at it. So I removed the last sentence. Egil 07:31, 3 Feb 2005 (UTC)

That last sentence reflects that fact that - "kosher" or not - some people do it anyway. Since the role of Wikipedia is not to proclaim what's right, but to describe what's done, I've restored a slightly modified version of that statement. Tverbeek 15:20, 3 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I beg to disagree. There is no reason to report usage that is patent nonsense, unless in very particular cases. The statement However, these rules are not universally followed is just as bad as the previous one. As far as I know, the only usage of 'MIM' and 'IMM' is by people who haven't even bothered finding out what roman numbers really are. The 'pedia should report correct information. Your sentence gives the impression there is doubt about what the correct usage is. This is misleading. And if you feel the need to state that "People do not always bother following rules", it should be done in the context of human behaviour in general. -- Egil 17:23, 3 Feb 2005 (UTC)

One point of that section is that the question of "correct" usage isn't as simple as you state. Not only has usage varied somewhat with time and place, the Romans themselves exhibited some inconsistency in their usage, and a degree of personal preference seems to have been involved. Certainly we can and should spell out the usage that's most prevalent, but since no one can find the original RFC or ISO standard for them, the position that there is an indisputable standard for "correct" usage - and that you have it - seems hard to justify. Tverbeek 20:52, 3 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Tverbeek is right: Even today, there no indisputable standard defining these rules. Moreover, the only documents I know who codify these rigid rules are modern. Are there any Roman documents known who describe the Roman numbering systems? If so, do they codify the stringent rules, or do they allow IM etc., or don't they mention the problem? Are there any medieval documents known who describe the Roman numbering systems? Same questions apply. -- Adhemar, 12 December 2005

The usage XIIX for 18 is attested in actual usage in medieval times, and I think IC for 99 is also. People who actually wrote and read these numerals could communicate unambiguously with a slightly more flexible version of "The Rules", so who are we to be throwing around epithets such as "patent nonsense"? My guess is that "The Rules" were written by printers round about the time that they standardized spelling. Tverbeek is right. Cbdorsett 07:09, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I came across a photo of an ancient inscription with the numeral XIIX (the tomb of Secundinus on the Via Appia). Does anyone know of an ancient example of the use of IC, IM or XM? --Zundark 14:03, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)
In Rome, archway number 29 of the Colosseum has the inscription XXVIIII. The MathWorld article on Roman numerals cites (Menninger 1992, p. 281; Cajori 1993, p. 32) that "Romans occasionally wrote IM, IIM, etc." -- Adhemar, 12 December 2005

How about VL for 45? I for one don't think this is a 'decimal' system, so the rule about subtracting exactly one-tenth seems suspect. Aleš Wikiak 21:03, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

Use for months as well as years

It's not very common, but you do sometimes see dates written as 4.viii.06 or (as I prefer) 4.VIII.06. A letter I opened this morning had a postmark from Coventry with 1-VIII.

unclear sentence

I don't understand what is meant by the sentence "so as to not confuse the first two digits of the century with the first two digits of most, if not all, of the years in the century." Is it just me, or does this need to be reworded?

The whole article needs to be reworded! That section should read a little better now. kwami 08:56, 2 November 2005 (UTC)

Z for 7

It says at Talk:English alphabet that the Romans used Z for 7. Where is the source of this?? Georgia guy 01:33, 12 November 2005 (UTC)

Z was used for the numeral 7 in Hebrew and Greek, and still is today. The numerical values of the letters of the alphabet came along for the ride with the alphabet itself, and Z likely remained associated with '7' long after it was dropped from writing, just as the Greeks retained digamma (F), qoph (Q), and sampi as numerals long after they were gone from the alphabet. Today, now that miniscule sigma has two forms, the Greeks tend to replace digamma with the alternate form (ς) for '6', and we can imagine that something similar happened with the Romans when they had a new letter G to use instead of the obsolete Z for '7'. See Gematria and Greek numerals. I don't know if the Romans ever used this as a daily system for indexing or anything instead of the Roman numerals, but you can probably find something in Ifrah Universal History of Numbers or Daniels & Bright World's Writing Systems, or many other refs. kwami 02:32, 12 November 2005 (UTC)
I've heard not only as Z as a alternative form for VII = 7 but also O = XI = 11; F = XL = 40; K = L = 50; S = LXX = 70 although far more frequently S = 1/2; R = LXXX = 80; N = XC = 90 long before Bede used N for nulla; Y = CL = 150; T = CLX = 160; H = CC = 200; E = CCL = 250; P (= sometimes also G) both equal to CD = 400 although CD can be confused with CIƆ = 1000. Were these actually used by the Romans at one time? Does anybody have a source? – Adhemar 18:14, 18 May 2006 (UTC)

By the numbers

While this is an interesting analysis of numerals, what about Roman numbers? What were the names? In Arabic, 1=one→first, so forth. What was Roman? Trekphiler 08:51, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

I'm not sure what you're asking. <1> and <I> both represent 'one' and 'first' in English. If you want the Latin words for numbers, they can be found at List of numbers in various languages, but there's no differece between <1> and <I>. Or you could read the numbers as series of alphabetic numerals: "XIV" as ex i vee, etc. kwami 09:32, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

Using only the first three numerals

It's mentioned that Roman numerals are often used in English for movie titles and other things that come in series. I've noticed, though, that often only the first three in a series are represented this way, with subsequent ones represented with Arabic numbers. Often, also, the first in a series is not given a number at all. For example, Intel makes chips called the Pentium, Pentium II, Pentium III, and Pentium 4. This way they avoid the problem of using IIII or IV. Maybe some note should be made of this.

--Alkali Jack

Not always true. Rocky used Roman numerals for all five instalments, even Bart Simpson notes this: "Rocky V, that was the fifth one!" Superman also used Roman numerals up to Superman IV, and Star Trek did up to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The Police Academy series used Arabic numerals for instalments 2 through 6; can't remember if they used a numeral at all for the 7th film. Also, whenever a movie uses Roman numerals for instalments, IV is always used for four. Bricks J. Winzer 22:18, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

And also compare Mac OS 9 with MacOSX!. --Error 00:21, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

Year in Roman numerals

Some articles about years now have Roman numerals, but should that be used for very ancient years?--Jusjih 08:40, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

Roman numeral for 1/2?

In the article Roman_Republican_coinage, there are a couple of hints that the Romans may have used the symbol S as a Roman numeral representing 1/2. The sestertius was a coin equal in value to 2+1/2 asses, and its value was marked with IIS or HS. Another coin, the Semis, had a value of 1/2 as, and its value was marked with the symbol S. The as itself was marked with the value I. This suggests that S may have been the Roman numeral for 1/2. --B.d.mills 22:59, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

Yes, it is presumably an abbreviation for semis (half). The Roman symbols for 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 are S, Ɔ, Z or their graphic variants Σ, ), 2. kwami 02:21, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

"Origin" for the use of the D letter used in Roman numerals

Read a text some years ago, that said the following about the D in the roman numerals (The following how I recall the sentence): D was used as 500, because it is the first letter of Demi-mille, which means "half of thousand", which is 500.

Can anyone substantiate this? -Hecko 21:17, 30 March 2006 (UTC)

Based on the ones you just took out of your question (L is for Legion, etc.), I suspect the whole pamphlet was based on folk etymology. These symbols have histories, and they were not originally letters of the alphabet. This is true for D as well. However, folk etymology can shape the evolution of words and of symbols. The numerals C and M seem to have been conflated with the letters C and M due to the words centum and mille, which were natural mnemonics for their shapes. It's very possible that demi-mille played a similar role in the evolution of D (the reason why it was conflated with D rather than some other letter), but it isn't the origin of the symbol itself. One of the reasons we know this is that even after it appeared with the modern shape D, there were other variants that were not identical with letters of the Latin alphabet, or even variant shapes of letters. kwami 23:56, 30 March 2006 (UTC)

Roman Numerals in Musical Analysis

In harmonic (musical) analysis, lower-case roman numerals are used to indicate minor triads while upper-case roman numerals are used for major triads. Assuming the chart in the article refers to the degrees in the major scale, the supertonic, mediant and submediant should be indicated with lower-case numerals. I changed the chart to reflect this. The leading tone triad is diminished. It should be lower-case with a superscript 'o' to the right of it. I can't figure out how to add the superscript. Maybe someone else can.

I have seen certain dictionaries that use upper-case roman numerals all around while giving a brief explanation of harmonic analysis. However, as a theory and composition student, I use this system just about every day and I can say that, without exception, the lower-case roman numerals are used for these triads. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Curtis wright 21 (talkcontribs)

I used a small superscript degree symbol (vii°) to indicate a leading tone because it was closer to the symbol in leading tone triad than was a simple superscript o (viio). — Joe Kress 09:09, 16 April 2006 (UTC)

MM and mm to indicate million

I was hoping to find mentioned in this topic, the use of MM and mm to indicate million, and the history of that practice.


It's beyond me why anyone is still using this archaic system! It tends to be popular among academics with a fetish for ancient things.


In a printed book dated of 1668, I found the following: Nec aliter ediderat Fr. Raphelengius anno cIɔIɔxcyI What on earth did he mean with cIɔIɔxcyI? --Ciacchi 22:47, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

The first two 'signs' are obvious: cIɔ means 1000, and means 500. This means that xcyI somehow means 168. However, 168 should be CLXVIII according to the usual rules. It may be the result of a combination of typographic errors and some unknown rules. — Joe Kress 03:59, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

How do you write roman numerals on a computer keyboard?


Pece Kocovski 01:45, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

For the normal ones, just use the corresponding alphabetic keys; for the exotic ones, configure your editor to add a few keybindings, or define your own keyboard layout, or learn the Unicode code points by heart and use the alt-digits combo. There are also some precomposed glyphs in Unicode, but I don't think they're generally recommended. Shinobu 23:46, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

This article has been defaced

Several juvenile quips (such as "D-bar is Danny Nickles" and "Barney is Satan") have been placed in the text. In most instances, the sense of the original text is lost. — Unknown 03:41, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

Fortunately, the page history can be used to repair the damage. Alertness good, worry bad. Shinobu 13:03, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

This sentence is extremely confusing

Rules regarding Roman numerals often state that a symbol representing 10^x may not precede any symbol larger than 10^x+1. For example, C cannot be preceded by I or V, only by X (or, of course, by a symbol representing a value equal to or larger than C). The "For example ... " part is the thing which is confusing. The first sentence says (for x = 2): A symbol representing 100 ( = C) may not precede any symbol larger than 1000 ( > M). But then it says: For example, C cannot be preceded by I or V, only by X. I absolutely cannot see any correlation between the 10^x / 10^x+1 rule and the I/V/X rule, because V ( =5) will require a logarithm equation to be expressed as 10^x. ;) -andy 05:04, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

For example, C (10^2), cannot be preceded by I (10^0) or V (10^log5 = 10^.7), only by X (10^1).
According to the rule: I (10^0) may not precede any symbol larger than X (10^1), like l (10^1.7). Similar V and L, and X and C. Thus far consistent with the example.
What troubles me is the notion that VL would be allowed instead of XLV. How I thought it worked (only preceding to subtract is shown):
symbol may precede but not
I V, X L, C...
V nothing X, L...
X L, C D, M...
L nothing C, D...
C D, M V, X...
D nothing M, V...
Et cetera. I short, I thought 5*10^i (i integer) was not allowed to precede stuff to subtract. Shinobu 10:36, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

Roman Numerals

...are a right fine pain in the ass. When I become Lord of the Internet, this is all that the Wikipedia text shall say. Just a friendly "thanks" to those of you who managed to write this impressive beast. -- 12:55, 22 October 2006 (UTC)


How were roman numbers originally pronounced? For example, these days the number CMLX (1960) would just be pronounced as 'nineteenhundred sixty', because the reader first converts it to decimal notation, and pronounces the number accordingly. Did the romans actually say 'C M L X' ? 10:02, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

"It is worth noting"

It is said:

It is also worth noting that writing 99 as "IC" or "ic", in Old English texts would appear identical to the word "Ic" meaning "I".

In fact it is most definitely not worth mentioning this, imnsho, because the fact is, the Roman numeral for 1 is I which also means I no less than Ic might have in the past. I'm removing this line from the article text because it simply doesn't make sense to state. D. F. Schmidt 02:32, 11 November 2006 (UTC)

"Unwrapped Flakes"

The following sentence seems to be speculative "original research" and tangential to the page topic:

"The possibility of using IC for 99 provides one explanation why Cadbury's smaller, unwrapped Flakes (for inserting into ice creams) were designated 99 Flakes."

I have removed it. Alki 22:55, 29 November 2006 (UTC)