Roman Numerals

In the Roman numeral system, which number doesn't exist?

And the answer: zero.  

In the Roman numeral system, seven letters – I, V, X, L, C, D, and M – are used in combination to represent numbers 1 and higher. However, there is no letter to represent zero. It's believed that the system was developed to declare the price of goods, and the concept of zero wasn't needed in the marketplace.

Photo credit: © Rosa María Fernández Rz—Moment/ 

The Roman numerical system is one of the longest withstanding methods of counting. Yet, the Romans weren't the only ancient society to use their alphabet's letters to depict numerals. The ancient Greeks used their alphabet's order to count, increasing first by ones, then by tens, then by hundreds. For more information on the history of this numerical system, check out this article.

Did You Know?

Here are a few fun facts about Roman numerals:

  1. When movies or books are published, the year of publication or year of copyright is often shown as a Roman numeral.
  2. The Romans would use Roman numerals to represent days of the week. For example, "I" represented Monday. This practice is still maintained in some places in Russia and the Baltic region.
  3. Roman numerals are still used anywhere from astronomy to the Olympics. Most popularly, Roman numerals are used to designate the year of annual sporting events.

To learn more about the origin and use of Roman numerals, check out the video below.

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