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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.

एक
eka
num
one (1)
द्वि
dvi
num
two (2) [two, dual]
त्रि
tri
num
three (3) [three, triple]
चतुर्
catur
num
four (4) [four, quarter, Spanish "cuatro"]
पञ्चन्
pañcan
num
five (5) [five, pentagram]
षष्
ṣaṣ
num
six (6) [six, hexagon]
सप्तन्
saptan
num
seven (7) [seven, heptagon]
अष्टन्
aṣṭan
num
eight (8) [eight, octopus]
नवन्
navan
num
nine (9) [nine, noon]
दशन्
daśan
num
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.

विंशति
viṃśati
num
twenty (20)
त्रिंशत्
triṃśat
num
thirty (30)
चत्वारिंशत्
catvāriṃśat
num
forty (40)
पञ्चाशत्
pañcāśat
num
fifty (50)
षष्टि
ṣaṣṭi
num
sixty (60)
सप्तति
saptati
num
seventy (70)
अशीति
aśīti
num
eighty (80)
नवति
navati
num
ninety (90)
शत
śata
num
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:

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.

Devanagari: Numbers

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."

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.

देवनागरी
IAST
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
0

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.