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A century is a period of 100 years. Centuries are numbered ordinally in English and many other languages. The word century comes from the Latin centum, meaning one hundred. Century is sometimes abbreviated as c.[1]

A centennial or centenary is a hundredth anniversary, or a celebration of this, typically the remembrance of an event which took place a hundred years earlier.

Start and end of centuries[edit]

Although a century can mean any arbitrary period of 100 years, there are two viewpoints on the nature of standard centuries. One is based on strict construction, while the other is based on popular perception.

According to the strict construction, the 1st century AD began with AD 1 and ended with AD 100, the 2nd century spanning the years 101 to 200, with the same pattern continuing onward.[note 1] In this model, the n-th century starts with the year that ends with "01", and ends with the year that ends with "00"; for example, the 20th century comprises the years 1901 to 2000 in strict usage.[2]

In popular perception and practice, centuries are structured by grouping years based on sharing the 'hundreds' digit(s). In this model, the n-th century starts with the year that ends in "00" and ends with the year ending in "99";[3] for example, the years 1900 to 1999, in popular culture, constitute the 20th century.[4] (This is similar to the grouping of "0-to-9 decades" which share the 'tens' digit.)

To facilitate calendrical calculations by computer, the astronomical year numbering and ISO 8601 systems both contain a year zero, with the astronomical year 0 corresponding to the year 1 BC, the astronomical year -1 corresponding to 2 BC, and so on.[5][6]

Strict vs Popular usage
Year 2 BC 1 BC 1 2 ... 99 100 101 102 ... 199 200 201 202 ... 1899 1900 1901 1902 ... 1999 2000 2001 2002 ... 2024 ... 2099 2100 2101 2102 ...
Strict 1st century BC 1st century 2nd century 3rd century ... 19th century 20th century 21st century 22nd century ...
Popular 1st century BC 1st century 2nd century 3rd century ... 19th century 20th century 21st century 22nd century ...

Alternative naming systems[edit]

Informally, years may be referred to in groups based on the hundreds part of the year. In this system, the years 1900–1999 are referred to as the nineteen hundreds (1900s). Aside from English usage, this system is used in Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Finnish and Hungarian. The Swedish nittonhundratalet (or 1900-talet), Danish nittenhundredetallet (or nittenhundredetallet), Norwegian nittenhundretallet (or 1900-tallet), Finnish tuhatyhdeksänsataaluku (or 1900-luku) and Hungarian ezerkilencszázas évek (or 1900-as évek) refer unambiguously to the years 1900–1999. In Swedish, however, a century is in more rare cases referred to as det n-te seklet/århundradet ("the n-th century") rather than n-hundratalet, i.e. the 17th century is (in rare cases) referred to as 17:(d)e seklet/sjuttonde seklet rather than 1600-talet,[7] and the years 1501 to 1600 is (according to Svenska Akademiens ordbok) referred to as sextonde århundradet ("the sixteenth century") and also distinctly separated from femtonhundratalet ("the 1500s"; the years 1500 to 1599).[8]

Italian also has a similar system, but it only expresses the hundreds and omits the word for 'thousand'. This system mainly functions from the 11th to the 20th century:

il Quattrocento (that is 'the four hundred', the 15th century)
il Cinquecento (that is 'the five hundred', the 16th century).

These terms are often used in other languages when referring to the history of Italy.

Similar dating units in other calendar systems[edit]

While the century has been commonly used in the West, other cultures and calendars have utilized differently sized groups of years in a similar manner. The Hindu calendar, in particular, summarizes its years into groups of 60,[9] while the Aztec calendar considers groups of 52.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ AD and CE year numbering, which are numerically equivalent, are now commonly used to number years, including those which occurred before these notations were invented; AD did not become widespread in Europe until early in the 2nd millennium.


  1. ^ "Oxford English Dictionary – List of Abbreviations".
  2. ^ "When Did the 21st Century Start?". timeanddate.com. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
  3. ^ "century". Oxford Dictionaries. Archived from the original on December 30, 2019. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  4. ^ "Centuries and How to Refer to Them". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  5. ^ "Calendars". L.E. Doggett. Archived from the original on 10 February 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  6. ^ "Year Dating Conventions". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  7. ^ "Decennium | svenska.se".
  8. ^ "Femton | SAOB | svenska.se".
  9. ^ "www.vedavidyalaya.com". Archived from the original on 17 December 2013. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  10. ^ "www.aztec-history.com". Retrieved 4 September 2013.