Hebrew numerals

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The system of Hebrew numerals is a quasi-decimal alphabetic numeral system using the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

In this system, there is no notation for zero, and the numeric values for individual letters are added together. Each unit (1, 2, ..., 9) is assigned a separate letter, each tens (10, 20, ..., 90) a separate letter, and the first four hundreds (100, 200, 300, 400) a separate letter. The later hundreds (500, 600, 700, 800 and 900) are represented by the sum of two or three letters representing one of the first four hundreds. To represent numbers from 1,000 to 999,999 the same letters are reused to serve as thousands, tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands. Gematria (Jewish numerology) uses these transformations extensively.

In Israel today, the decimal system of Hindu-Arabic numerals (ex. 0, 1, 2, 3, etc.) is used in almost all cases (money, age, date on the civil calendar). The Hebrew numerals are used only in special cases, like when using the Hebrew calendar, or numbering a list (similar to a, b, c, d, etc.), much as Roman numerals are in the West.

Contents

Main Table

Note: For ordinal numbers greater than 10, cardinal numbers are used instead.

Speaking and writing

Cardinal and ordinal numbers must agree in gender (masculine or feminine; mixed groups are treated as masculine) with the noun they are describing. If there is no such noun (e.g. a telephone number or a house number in a street address), the feminine form is used. Ordinal numbers must also agree in number and definite status like other adjectives. The cardinal number precedes the noun (ex. shlosha yeladim), except for the number one which succeeds it (ex. yeled echad). The number two is special - shnayim (m.) and shtayim (f.) become shney (m.) and shtey (f.) when followed by the noun they count. For ordinal numbers (numbers indicating position) greater than ten the cardinal is used.

Calculations

The Hebrew numeric system operates on the additive principle in which the numeric values of the letters are added together to form the total. For example, 177 is represented as קעז which corresponds to 100 + 70 + 7 = 177.

Mathematically, this type of system requires 27 letters (1-9, 10-90, 100-900). In practice the last letter, tav (which has the value 400) is used in combination with itself and/or other letters from kof (100) onwards, to generate numbers from 500 and above. Alternatively, the 22-letter Hebrew numeral set is sometimes extended to 27 by using 5 sofeet (final) forms of the Hebrew letters.

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