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Cardinal one
Ordinal 1st
Numeral system unary
Divisors 1
Roman numeral I
Roman numeral (unicode) Ⅰ, ⅰ
Greek prefix mono- /haplo-
Latin prefix uni-
Binary 12
Ternary 13
Quaternary 14
Quinary 15
Senary 16
Octal 18
Duodecimal 112
Hexadecimal 116
Vigesimal 120
Base 36 136
Greek numeral α'
Persian ١
Arabic & Kurdish ١
Urdu ۱
Sindhi ١
Bengali & Assamese
Chinese numeral 一,弌,壹
Devanāgarī (ek)
Georgian Ⴁ/ⴁ/ბ(Bani)
Hebrew א
Korean 일, 하나

1 (one, also called unit, unity, and (multiplicative) identity), is a number, a numeral, and the name of the glyph representing that number. It represents a single entity, the unit of counting or measurement. For example, a line segment of unit length is a line segment of length 1. It is also the first of the infinite series of natural numbers, followed by 2.


The word one can be used as a noun, an adjective and a pronoun.[1]

It comes from the English word an,[1] which comes from the Proto-Germanic root *ainaz.[1] The Proto-Germanic root *ainaz comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *oi-no-.[1]

Compare the Proto-Germanic root *ainaz to Old Frisian an, Gothic ains, Danish een, Dutch een, German eins and Old Norse einn.

Compare the Proto-Indo-European root *oi-no- (which means one, single[1]) to Greek oinos (which means "ace" on dice[1]), Latin unus (one[1]), Old Persian aivam, Old Church Slavonic -inu and ino-, Lithuanian vienas, Old Irish oin and Breton un (one[1]).

As a number[edit]

One, sometimes referred to as unity,[2] is the first non-zero natural number. It is thus the integer before two and after zero, and the first positive odd number.

Any number multiplied by one remains that number, as one is the identity for multiplication. As a result, 1 is its own factorial, its own square, its own cube, and so on. One is also the result of the empty product, as any number multiplied by one is itself. It is also the only natural number that is neither composite nor prime with respect to division, but instead considered a unit.

As a digit[edit]

Script progression from left to right: simple horizontal stroke, an upward-curved horizontal arc, another arc with a thick dot on left vertex, a sinewave-shaped upward then downward arc with dot on left, then a nearly-vertical version like a musical eighth-note with dot on top vertex, and finally a simple vertical stroke

The glyph used today in the Western world to represent the number 1, a vertical line, often with a serif at the top and sometimes a short horizontal line at the bottom, traces its roots back to the Indians, who wrote 1 as a horizontal line, much like the Chinese character . The Gupta wrote it as a curved line, and the Nagari sometimes added a small circle on the left (rotated a quarter turn to the right, this 9-look-alike became the present day numeral 1 in the Gujarati and Punjabi scripts). The Nepali also rotated it to the right but kept the circle small.[3] This eventually became the top serif in the modern numeral, but the occasional short horizontal line at the bottom probably originates from similarity with the Roman numeral I. In some countries, the little serif at the top is sometimes extended into a long upstroke, sometimes as long as the vertical line, which can lead to confusion with the glyph for seven in other countries. Where the 1 is written with a long upstroke, the number 7 has a horizontal stroke through the vertical line.

While the shape of the 1 character has an ascender in most modern typefaces, in typefaces with text figures, the character usually is of x-height, as, for example, in Horizontal guidelines with a one fitting within lines, a four extending below guideline, and an eight poking above guideline.

Decorative clay/stone circular off-white sundial with bright gold stylized sunburst in center of 24 hour clock face, one through twelve clockwise on right, and one through twelve again clockwise on left, with J shapes where ones' digits would be expected when numbering the clock hours. Shadow suggests 3 PM toward lower left.
The 24-hour tower clock in Venice, using J as a symbol for 1.

Many older typewriters do not have a separate symbol for 1 and use the lowercase letter l instead. It is possible to find cases when the uppercase J is used, while it may be for decorative purposes.


Mathematically, 1 is:

Tallying is often referred to as "base 1", since only one mark — the tally itself — is needed. This is more formally referred to as a unary numeral system. Unlike base 2 or base 10, this is not a positional notation.

Since the base 1 exponential function (1x) always equals 1, its inverse does not exist (which would be called the logarithm base 1 if it did exist).

There are two ways to write the real number 1 as a recurring decimal: as 1.000..., and as 0.999....

Formalizations of the natural numbers have their own representations of 1:

In a multiplicative group or monoid, the identity element is sometimes denoted 1, but e (from the German Einheit, "unity") is also traditional. However, 1 is especially common for the multiplicative identity of a ring, i.e., when an addition and 0 are also present. When such a ring has characteristic n not equal to 0, the element called 1 has the property that n1 = 1n = 0 (where this 0 is the additive identity of the ring). Important examples are finite fields.

1 is the first figurate number of every kind, such as triangular number, pentagonal number and centered hexagonal number, to name just a few.

In many mathematical and engineering problems, numeric values are typically normalized to fall within the unit interval from 0 to 1, where 1 usually represents the maximum possible value in the range of parameters. Likewise, vectors are often normalized to give unit vectors, that is vectors of magnitude one, because these often have more desirable properties. Functions, too, are often normalized by the condition that they have integral one, maximum value one, or square integral one, depending on the application.

Because of the multiplicative identity, if f(x) is a multiplicative function, then f(1) must equal 1.

It is also the first and second number in the Fibonacci sequence (0 is the zeroth) and is the first number in many other mathematical sequences.

1 is neither a prime number nor a composite number, but a unit, like −1 and, in the Gaussian integers, i and −i. The fundamental theorem of arithmetic guarantees unique factorization over the integers only up to units. (For example, 4 = 22, but if units are included, is also equal to, say, (−1)6 × 123 × 22, among infinitely many similar "factorizations".)

The definition of a field requires that 1 must not be equal to 0. Thus, there are no fields of characteristic 1. Nevertheless, abstract algebra can consider the field with one element, which is not a singleton and is not a set at all.

1 is the only positive integer divisible by exactly one positive integer (whereas prime numbers are divisible by exactly two positive integers, composite numbers are divisible by more than two positive integers, and zero is divisible by all positive integers). 1 was formerly considered prime by some mathematicians, using the definition that a prime is divisible only by 1 and itself. However, this complicates the fundamental theorem of arithmetic, so modern definitions exclude units.

By definition, 1 is the magnitude, absolute value, or norm of a unit complex number, unit vector, and a unit matrix (more usually called an identity matrix). Note that the term unit matrix is sometimes used to mean something quite different.

By definition, 1 is the probability of an event that is almost certain to occur.

1 is the most common leading digit in many sets of data, a consequence of Benford's law.

1 is the only known Tamagawa number for a simply connected algebraic group over a number field.

The generating function that has all coefficients 1 is given by

1/1 − x = 1 + x + x2 + x3 + …

This power series converges and has finite value if and only if, |x| < 1.

Table of basic calculations[edit]

Multiplication 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 50 100 1000
1 × x 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 50 100 1000
Division 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
1 ÷ x 1 0.5 0.3 0.25 0.2 0.16 0.142857 0.125 0.1 0.1 0.09 0.083 0.076923 0.0714285 0.06
x ÷ 1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Exponentiation 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
1x 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
x1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

In technology[edit]

Chasing-arrow triangle with numeral one within

In science[edit]

  • 1 is the atomic number of hydrogen, and the atomic mass of its most common isotope.
  • 1 is the ASCII code of "Start of Header".
  • +1 is the electric charge of positrons and protons.
  • Group 1 of the periodic table consists of the alkali metals.
  • Period 1 of the periodic table consists of just two elements, hydrogen and helium.
  • The dwarf planet Ceres has the minor-planet designation 1 Ceres because it was the first asteroid to be discovered.
  • The Roman numeral I often stands for the first-discovered satellite of a planet or minor planet (such as Neptune I, a.k.a. Triton). For some earlier discoveries, the Roman numerals originally reflected the increasing distance from the primary instead.

In philosophy[edit]

In the philosophy of Plotinus and a number of other neoplatonists, The One is the ultimate reality and source of all existence. Philo of Alexandria (20 BC – AD 50) regarded the number one as God's number, and the basis for all numbers ("De Allegoriis Legum," ii.12 [i.66]).

In literature[edit]

  • Number One is a character in the book series Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore.
  • Number 1 is also a character in the series "Artemis Fowl" by Eoin Colfer.
  • In a 1968 song by Three Dog's Night, the number one is identified as "the loneliest number".

In comics[edit]

  • A character in the Italian comic book Alan Ford (authors Max Bunker and Magnus), very old disabled man, the supreme leader of the group TNT.

In sports[edit]

In other fields[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Online Etymology Dictionary". Douglas Harper. 
  2. ^ Skoog, Douglas. Principles of Instrumental Analysis. Brooks/Cole, 2007, p. 758.
  3. ^ Ifrah, Georges; et al. (1998). The Universal History of Numbers: From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer. Translated by Bellos, David. yes. London: The Harvill Press. p. 392, Fig. 24.61. 
  4. ^ "Plastic Packaging Resins" (PDF). American Chemistry Council. 
  5. ^ Woodford, Chris (2006), Digital Technology, Evans Brothers, p. 9, ISBN 978-0-237-52725-9 
  6. ^ Godbole, Achyut S. (1 September 2002), Data Comms & Networks, Tata McGraw-Hill Education, p. 34, ISBN 978-1-259-08223-8 

External links[edit]