Vietnamese numerals

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Historically Vietnamese has two sets of numbers: one is etymologically native Vietnamese; the other uses Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary. In the modern language the native Vietnamese vocabulary is used for both everyday counting and mathematical purposes. The Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary is used only in fixed expressions or in Sino-Vietnamese words. This is somewhat analogous to the way in which Latin and Greek numerals are used in modern English (e.g., the bi- in bicycle). Sino-Vietnamese words are also used for units of ten thousand or above, where native vocabulary was lacking.

Concept[edit]

Among the languages of the Chinese cultural sphere, Japanese and Korean both use two numerical systems, one native and one Chinese-based. The Chinese-based vocabulary is the one in common use. In Vietnamese, on the other hand, the Chinese-based system is not in everyday use. Numbers from 1 to 1000 are expressed using native Vietnamese vocabulary, and only a few numbers (such as 1,000,000, triệu) are based on Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary.

In the modern Vietnamese writing system, numbers are written in the romanized script quốc ngữ or Arabic numerals. Prior to the 20th century Vietnam officially used Classical Chinese as a written language, using Chinese characters to write Sino-Vietnamese numbers. For non-official purposes Vietnamese also had a writing system known as Hán-Nôm. Under this system, Sino-Vietnamese numbers were written in Hán tự (Chinese characters) and native vocabulary was written in a system of modified Chinese characters known as Chữ Nôm.

Basic figures[edit]

Basic features of the Vietnamese numbering system include the following:

  • Unlike other sinoxenic numbering systems, Vietnamese separates place values in thousands rather than myriads. For example, "123123123" is recorded in Vietnamese as "một trăm hai mươi ba triệu một trăm hai mươi ba nghìn (ngàn) một trăm hai mươi ba, or '123 million, 123 thousand and 123',[1] whilst in Chinese, Japanese and Korean, the same number is rendered "1億2312萬3123" (1 hundred-million, 2312 ten-thousand and 3123).
  • The Sino-Vietnamese numbers are not in frequent use in modern Vietnamese. Sino-Vietnamese numbers such as "vạn/萬" 'ten thousand', "ức/億" 'hundred-thousand' and "triệu/兆" 'million' are used for figures exceeding one thousand, but with the exception of "triệu" are becoming less commonly used. Number values for these words follow usage in Ancient China, with each numeral increasing tenfold in digit value, 億 being the number for 105, 兆 for 106, et cetera. (See Chinese numerals#Large numbers). As a result, the value of "triệu" differs from modern Chinese 兆.
  • Outside of fixed Sino-Vietnamese expressions, Sino-Vietnamese words are usually used in combination with native Vietnamese words. For instance, "mười triệu" combines native "mười" and Sino-Vietnamese "triệu".

The following table is an overview of the basic Vietnamese numeric figures, provided in both Native and Sino-Viet forms. For each number, the form that is more commonly used is highlighted. Where there are differences between the Hanoi and Saigon dialects of Vietnamese, readings between each are differentiated below within the notes.

Number Sino-Vietnamese Native Vietnamese Notes
Quốc Ngữ Hán tự Quốc Ngữ Chữ Nôm
0 không • linh 空 • 〇(零) (none) (none) The foreign-language borrowed word "zêrô (zêro, dê-rô)" is often used in physics-related publications, or colloquially.
1 nhất 一(壹) một 𠬠
2 nhị 二(貳) hai 𠄩
3 tam 三(叄) ba 𠀧
4 tứ 四(肆) bốn 𦊚 In the ordinal number system, the Sino-Viet "tư/四" is more systematic; as the digit 4 appears after the number 20 when counting upwards, the Sino-Viet "tư/四" is more commonly used.
5 ngũ 五(伍) năm 𠄼 Within the Hanoi dialect, five may also be pronounced as "lăm" whilst as part of a two-digit number ending in 5 (such as 15, 25, 35...) to avoid possible confusion with homonyms of năm, an example being "năm/𢆥", meaning "years of age".
6 lục 六(陸) sáu 𦒹
7 thất 七(柒) bảy 𦉱 In some Vietnamese dialects, it is also read as "bẩy".
8 bát 八(捌) tám 𠔭
9 cửu 九(玖) chín 𠃩
10 thập (拾) mười 𨒒
100 bách (佰) trăm • một trăm 𤾓 • 𠬠𤾓 The Sino-Viet "bách/百" is commonly used as a morpheme (in compound words), and is rarely used in the field of mathematics as a digit. Example: "bách phát bách trúng/百發百中".
1,000 thiên (仟) nghìn (ngàn) • một nghìn (ngàn) 𠦳 • 𠬠𠦳 The Sino-Viet "thiên/千" is commonly used as a morpheme, but rarely used in a mathematical sense. Example: "thiên kim/千金". "nghìn" is the standard reading in Northern Vietnam, whilst "ngàn" is the pronunciation in the South.
10,000 vạn • một vạn • 𠬠萬 mười nghìn (ngàn) 𨒒𠦳 The "một/𠬠" within "một vạn/𠬠萬" is a Native Vietnamese (intrinsic term) morpheme.
100,000 ức • một ức • mười vạn[2] • 𠬠億 • 𨒒萬 trăm nghìn (ngàn) • một trăm nghìn (ngàn) 𤾓𠦳 • 𠬠𤾓𠦳 The "mười/𨒒" and "một/𠬠" within "mười vạn/𨒒萬" and "một ức/𠬠億" are Native Vietnamese (intrinsic term) morphemes.
1,000,000 triệu • một triệu • một trăm vạn[3] • 𠬠兆 • 𠬠𤾓萬 (none) (none) The "một/𠬠" and "trăm/𤾓" within "một triệu/𠬠兆" and "một trăm vạn/𠬠𤾓萬" are Native Vietnamese (intrinsic term) morphemes.
10,000,000 mười triệu 𨒒兆 (mixed usage of Sino-Viet and Native Viet systems) (mixed usage of Sino-Viet and Native Viet systems) The "mười/𨒒" within "mười triệu/𨒒兆" is a Native Vietnamese (intrinsic term) morpheme.
100,000,000 trăm triệu 𤾓兆 (mixed usage of Sino-Viet and Native Viet systems) (mixed usage of Sino-Viet and Native Viet systems) The "trăm/𤾓" within "trăm triệu/𤾓兆" is a Native Vietnamese (intrinsic term) morpheme.
1,000,000,000 tỷ [4] (none) (none)

Other figures[edit]

Number Quốc Ngữ Hán-Nôm Notes
11 mười một 𨒒𠬠
12 mười hai • một tá 𨒒𠄩 • 𠬠 tá "một tá/𠬠 tá" is often used within mathematics-related occasions, to which "" represents the foreign loanword "dozen".
14 mười bốn • mười tư 𨒒𦊚 • 𨒒四 "mười tư/𨒒四" is often used within literature-related occasions, to which "tư/四" forms part of the Sino-Viet vocabulary.
15 mười lăm 𨒒𠄻 Here, five is pronounced "lăm", or also "nhăm" by some speakers in the north.
19 mười chín 𨒒𠃩
20 hai mươi • hai chục 𠄩𨒒 • 𠄩𨔿
21 hai mươi mốt 𠄩𨒒𠬠 For numbers which include the digit 1 from 21 to 91, the number 1 is pronounced "mốt".
24 hai mươi tư 𠄩𨒒四 When the digit 4 appears in numbers after 20, it is more common to use "tư/四".
25 hai mươi lăm 𠄩𨒒𠄻 Here, five is pronounced "lăm".
50 năm mươi • năm chục 𠄼𨒒 • 𠄼𨔿 When "𨒒" (10) appears after the number 20, the pronunciation changes to "mươi".
101 một trăm linh một • một trăm lẻ một 𠬠𤾓零𠬠 • 𠬠𤾓𥘶𠬠 Although "một trăm linh một/𠬠𤾓零𠬠" is the standard form, it is more commonly used in Northern Vietnam, where "linh/零" forms part of the Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary; "một trăm lẻ một/𠬠𤾓𥘶𠬠" is more commonly used in the South.
1001 một nghìn (ngàn) không trăm linh một • một nghìn (ngàn) không trăm lẻ một 𠬠𠦳空𤾓零𠬠 • 𠬠𠦳空𤾓𥘶𠬠 When the hundreds digit is occupied by a zero, these are expressed using "không trăm/空𤾓".
10055 mười nghìn (ngàn) không trăm năm mươi lăm 𨒒𠦳空𤾓𠄼𨒒𠄻
  • When the number 1 appears after 20 in the unit digit, the pronunciation changes to "mốt".
  • When the number 4 appears after 20 in the unit digit, it is more common to use Sino-Viet "tư/四".
  • When the number 5 appears after 10 in the unit digit, the pronunciation changes to "lăm".
  • When "mười" appears after 20, the pronunciation changes to "mươi".

Ordinal numbers[edit]

Vietnamese ordinal numbers are generally preceded by the prefix "thứ", which is a Sino-Viet word which corresponds to "". For the ordinal numbers of one and four, the Sino-Viet readings "nhất/一" and "tư/四" are more commonly used; two is occasionally rendered using the Sino-Viet "nhì/二". In all other cases, the native Vietnamese number is used.

Ordinal number Quốc Ngữ Hán-Nôm
1st thứ nhất 次一
2nd thứ hai • thứ nhì 次𠄩 • 次二
3rd thứ ba 次𠀧
4th thứ tư 次四
5th thứ năm 次𠄼
nth thứ … 次…

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Triệu means one million in Vietnamese, but the Chinese number that is the source of the Vietnamese word, "兆" (Mandarin zhào), is officially rendered as 1012 in Taiwan, and commonly designated as 106 in the People's Republic of China (See various scale systems).
  2. ^ Tu dien Han Viet Thieu Chuu:「(1): ức, mười vạn là một ức.
  3. ^ Tu dien Han Viet Thieu Chuu:「(3): triệu, một trăm vạn.
  4. ^ Hán Việt Từ Điển Trích Dẫn 漢越辭典摘引:「Một ngàn lần một triệu là một tỉ 秭 (*). Tức là 1.000.000.000. § Ghi chú: Ngày xưa, mười vạn 萬 là một ức 億, một vạn ức là một tỉ 秭.

See also[edit]