Arabic Numbers

Arabic Numbers

     Arabic numbers refer to numerals inscribed in the Arabic numeral system. In the recent times, it is the most popular system used in the representation of numbers. Ancient Arabs mathematicians developed the Arabic numeral system, which later the Persian and Arabic mathematicians in Baghdad adopted and helped to spread the numeral system further west and eventually across the world (Smith & Karpinski, 2013).  The Italian scholar Fibonacci developed the widely used form of the Arabic numerals in North Africa. Arabic numerals generally refer to the ten digits: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. In the tenth century, North African Arabic speakers introduced the ten numbers to Europe, thereby causing these numbers to be referred to as Arabic numerals, a term that has been used ever since.

The below table shows the Arabic numbers from Zero to Ten

The numerals used in English are of Arabic origin, but Arabs nowadays use the Hindi ones sometimes, because of business ties with India in past.

Arabic Numeral Arabic script Transliteration Number
0 صِفْر Sefr 0
1 واحِد waHed 1
2 اثنان / اِثْنَين ‘ethnaan/’ethnayn 2
3 ثَلاثَة thalatha 3
4 أَرْبَعَة ‘arbaAa 4
5 خَمْسة khamsa 5
6 سِتَّة set-ta 6
7 سَبْعَة sabAa 7
8 ثَمانِية thamaaneya 8
9 تِسْعَة tesAa 9
10 عَشَرَة Aashara 10


   Days of the week are mostly driven from numbers as per the following table.

Arabic Days of The Week

Arabic Transliteration English
يَوْم الأَحَد yawm mel-‘aHad Sunday
يَوْم الإثْنَيْن yawm el-ethnayn Monday
يَوْم الثُلاثاء yawm ethulathaa’ Tuesday
يَوْم الأرْبعاء yawm el-arbeAa’ Wednesday
يَوْم الخَميس yawm el-khamees Thursday
يَوْم الجُمعَة yawm el-jumuAa Friday
يَوْم السّبْت yawm as-sabt Saturday

     Before the fifth century AD, early mathematicians used to have difficulties in performing the most elementary calculations since the concept of zero had not yet been developed (Kaplan, 1999). However, in the fifth century AD Indian mathematicians were able to develop fully the concept of zero. However, civilizations around the world invented zero as a placeholder as history suggests, with the concept dating back as far as the Sumerians whom history regards as the first people to invent a counting system (Kaplan, 1999). The Sumerian system was dependent on the positional relativity of one symbol to another; therefore, to signify the placeholder zero, a pair of angled wedges was used.

     Through the Acadians, the Sumerian system passed on to the Babylonians, where the ambiguity of a placeholder was eliminated through the introduction of double-angled wedges to symbolize an empty column. The Babylonians, however, did not invent zero as a number; the Mayans adopted it as a placeholder in their intricate calendar systems though they never used zero in their calculations (Kaplan, 1999). History suggests that it was in India where the mathematical zero was developed; mainly due to the cultural and philosophical factors found in India, thereby expounding more on why other civilizations had not developed zero mathematically. Hindu mathematician Brahmagupta developed the concept where placing a dot underneath numbers symbolized zero though he does not take credit for developing the mathematical zero since records unearthed later date to a time before he used the dots to represent zero. The Bakhshali manuscript, dating back to the third century is proof that the usage of the mathematical zero in ancient India has been there for a while.

     Italian mathematician Fibonacci used the zero to perform calculations without the use of an abacus after it found its way to Europe through the Moorish conquest of Spain. Merchants used Fibonacci equations to balance their books and through the merchants, the zero spread across the world (Kaplan, 1999). Most religious leaders and the governments at the time were however suspicious of the mathematical zero and it faced opposition with some countries such as Italy banning its usage. However, merchants illegally and secretively used the number zero and it was inevitable to accept the usage of the mathematical zero, as its roots were deep since it became essential in balancing the merchants’ books.

     With the invention of the printing press came the acceptance of Arabic numerals in Europe. Nations such as Russia changed to Arabic numerals from Cyrillic numerals through Peter the Great and China through the Muslim Hui people during the Yuan dynasty (Selin, 2013). Inscriptions found on historic structures such as the tower of Heathfield church, Sussex in Britain indicate the spread use of the Arabic numerals.

Arabic ordinal numbers can be easily distinguished from the numbers used in counting. The table below includes the numbers first to twelve; they are presented together with the definite article. This is the form used in telling the time.

Click here to get some FREE Arabic numbers worksheets to start learning Arabic numerals 

Arabic Ordinal Numbers

The first al-‘aw-wal الأَوَّل
The second ath-thaani الثّاني
The third ath-thaaleth الثّالِث
The fourth ar-raabeA الرّابِع
The fifth al-khaames الخامِس
The sixth as-saades السّادِس
The seventh as-saabeA السّابِع
The eighth ath-thaamen الثّامِن
The ninth at-taaseA التّاسِع
The tenth al-Aaasher العاشِر
The eleventh al-Hadii Aashar الحادِي عَشَر
The twelfth ath-thaanii Aashar الثّاني عَشَر

Grammar usage

1-Please note that the number has got to have the same gender as the noun! As below:

Arabic Transliteration English
كتاب واحد ketaab waaHed One book
رِسالة واحدة resaala waaHeda One message
طالبـان اثنـان Taalebaan ethnaan Two (m)students
طالبـتان اثنـتان Taalebataan ethnataan Two (f)students


Arabic has a dual form which is used by adding ان-ين)) to the noun (Taaleb / Taalebaan or Taalebain) & طالب- طالبان the same thing with the feminine nouns by adding (ان-ين) with just one more thing the (Taa Marbuuta) at the end of the feminine noun (ة)becomes (taa maftuha) (ت) before adding the suffixes (_(ان-ينas in the above examples.

2- when you count from 3 to 10, use the plural for the counted nouns. For example:

thalaath say-yaraat, Aashar say-yaaraat

  ثلاث سيارات، عَشر سيارات.

 But after (10) use the singular nouns again, even for billions. For example:

  أَحَدَ عَشر سيارة؛ مليون سيارة      Ahada Aashar say-yaara, melyuun say-yaara


Kaplan, R. (1999). The nothing that is: A natural history of zero. Oxford University Press.

Smith, D. E., & Karpinski, L. C. (2013). The Hindu-Arabic Numerals. Courier Corporation.

Selin, H. (Ed.). (2013). Encyclopaedia of the history of science, technology, and medicine in non-western cultures. Springer Science & Business Media.