One to One Hundred
In this lesson, we'll study all of the Sanskrit numbers from 1 to 100. Many of these numbers behave irregularly when inflected. But in this lesson, we'll just concern ourselves with the stem of the number.
1 to 10
Study the numbers below. You might find that you can recognize most of them already.
- one (1)
- two (2) [two, dual]
- three (3) [three, triple]
- four (4) [four, quarter, Spanish "cuatro"]
- five (5) [five, pentagram]
- six (6) [six, hexagon]
- seven (7) [seven, heptagon]
- eight (8) [eight, octopus]
- nine (9) [nine, noon]
- ten (10) [ten, decade,]
Given that these numbers have counterparts that survived in certain English words, these numbers should not take long to learn. When you're done, move on to the numbers below, which aren't as easy to recognize.
- twenty (20)
- thirty (30)
- forty (40)
- fifty (50)
- sixty (60)
- seventy (70)
- eighty (80)
- ninety (90)
- one hundred (100) [hundred, century]
Given these nineteen words, we can write any number from 1 to 199. We do so by putting the smaller number in front of the larger one and following the rules of external sandhi. So, 14 is caturdaśa. In the same way, the English word "fourteen" is formed from "four" and "ten."
However, there are some important irregularities for the numbers from 1 to 100:
- In 11, eka becomes ekā.
- dva becomes dvā, but it is unchanged in 82, and the change in optional is 42 - 72.
- tri becomes trayas, but it is unchanged in 83, and the change is optional in 43 - 73.
- 16 is ṣoḍaśa. 96 is ṣaḍṇavati.
- aṣṭa becomes aṣṭā in 18, 28, and 38.
- These irregularities often apply to numbers above 100, but they don't always.
ṣaṣ becomes ṣaṭ by consonant reduction.
I suppose that the "123" at the end makes the title of this lesson a misnomer, but the title still describes the scope of the numbers we've covered here. We'll study numbers like "200" later on.
Every human language has given its speakers a way to talk about numbers, but different cultures have approached them in different ways. For example, most people today think about numbers in groups of "ten" : we can write ten numbers with the symbols from 0 to 9, there are ten tens in a hundred, there are ten hundreds in a thousand, and so on. Perhaps this seems like an obvious scheme to use, but we're conditioned to think that way because we live in a world that has enthusiastically embraced this decimal, or base ten, system. Some cultures, for example, once used "base sixty," meaning that numbers were considered in batches of sixty and not ten.
In short, several schemes were once used to describe numbers. Even within individual schemes, though, there were considerable differences, and these differences primarily came in creating a system for writing down the numbers. Such a system uses numerals, which are like letters. Here you can see the number 338 written in three different systems. These systems all come from cultures that used "base ten."
Roman numerals. C stands for 100, X stands for 10, V stands for 5, and I stands for 1. Use these symbols from greatest to smallest to represent the number. Although it looks regal, this system is clunky and takes a lot of time to write.
Chinese numerals. 三 stands for 3, 百 stands for 100, 十 stands for 10, and 八 stands for 8. This system has separate symbols for the numbers from 1 to 9, and it uses these symbols with other symbols that express 10, 100, and so on. This system is much better than the Roman numerals above, but it needs more symbols, and it still takes a lot of time to write.
Arabic numerals. 3 stands for three and 8 stands for eight. The position of these numerals expresses their size. This system only requires us to know ten symbols, and it can be written very quickly.
This introduction is longer than I thought it would be, so let me reveal the punchline: the Arabic numerals actually came from India! I bring all of this up so that you can appreciate how similar the Devanagari numerals are to the ones we use today.
These numbers are used as you would expect: 1000 is १०००, 2395 is २३९५, and so on. Note that this scheme naturally gives rise to the concept of "zero" as a placeholder number, as in 1000 above. Indeed, the concept of zero also came from India.