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In mathematical numeral systems, the radix or base is the number of unique digits, including zero, used to represent numbers in a positional numeral system. For example, for the decimal system (the most common system in use today) the radix is ten, because it uses the ten digits from 0 through 9.

In any standard positional numeral system, a number is conventionally written as (x)y with x as the string of digits and y as its base, although for base ten the subscript is usually assumed (and omitted, together with the pair of parentheses), as it is the most common way to express value. For example, (100)dec = 100 (in the decimal system) represents the number one hundred, while (100)2 (in the binary system with base 2) represents the number four.[1]


Radix is a Latin word for "root". Root can be considered a synonym for base in the arithmetical sense.

In numeral systems[edit]

In the system with radix 13, for example, a string of digits such as 398 denotes the number 3 × 132 + 9 × 131 + 8 × 130.

More generally, in a system with radix b (b > 1), a string of digits d1dn denotes the number d1bn−1 + d2bn−2 + … + dnb0, where 0 ≤ di < b.[1]

Commonly used numeral systems include:

Base/Radix Name Description
2 binary numeral system used internally by nearly all computers, is base two. The two digits are "0" and "1", expressed from switches displaying OFF and ON respectively. Used in most electric counters.
8 octal system is occasionally used in computing. The eight digits are "0–7" and represent 3 bits (2^3).
10 decimal system the most used system of numbers in the world, is used in arithmetic. Its ten digits are "0–9". Used in most mechanical counters.
12 duodecimal (dozenal) system is sometimes advocated due to divisibility by 2, 3, 4 and 6. It was traditionally used as part of quantities expressed in dozens and grosses.
16 hexadecimal system is often used in computing as a compacter representation of binary (1 hex digit per 4 bits). The sixteen digits are "0–9" followed by "A–F" or "a–f".
20 vigesimal traditional numeral system in several cultures, still used by some for counting.
60 sexagesimal system originated in ancient Sumeria and passed to the Babylonians.[2] Used today as the basis of our modern circular coordinate system (degrees, minutes, and seconds) and time measuring (hours, minutes, and seconds).

For a larger list, see List of numeral systems.

The octal and hexadecimal systems are often used in computing because of their ease as shorthand for binary. Every hexadecimal digit corresponds to a sequence of four binary digits, since sixteen is the fourth power of two; for example, hexadecimal 7816 is binary 11110002. A similar relationship holds between every octal digit and every possible sequence of three binary digits, since eight is the cube of two.

Radices are usually natural numbers. However, other positional systems are possible, e.g. golden ratio base (whose radix is a non-integer algebraic number),[3] and negative base (whose radix is negative).[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mano, M. Morris; Kime, Charles (2014). Logic and Computer Design Fundamentals (4th ed.). Harlow: Pearson. pp. 13–14. ISBN 978-1-292-02468-4. 
  2. ^ Bertman, Stephen (2005). Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia (Paperback ed.). Oxford [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. p. 257. ISBN 978-019-518364-1. 
  3. ^ Bergman, George (1957). "A Number System with an Irrational Base". Mathematics Magazine. 31 (2): 98–110. JSTOR 3029218. doi:10.2307/3029218. 
  4. ^ William J. Gilbert (September 1979). "Negative Based Number Systems" (PDF). Mathematics Magazine. 52 (4): 240–244. Retrieved 7 February 2015. 

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