What is a Roman Numeral? Formation and Uses

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The Roman numeral is a system written in symbols based on the ancient Roman system for Arabic numbers. This is a set of symbols. Roman numerals were developed to price different goods easily. Roman numbers were widely used throughout the Roman Empire in everyday life.

The Latin alphabet is used to write Roman numbers. Roman numbers are written with a combination of letters, and each letter has a fixed value. It doesn’t have a place value.

Seven letters of the alphabet to show Roman numerals

Seven alphabet letters are used as seven symbols to make the Roman numerals. Those are I, V, X, L, C, D, and M. Those represent the different numbers.

The following chart shows the Roman numbers corresponding to the Arabic numbers.

Roman numbers

Roman symbols are shown by the following seven letters of the alphabet:

Sr. No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Arabic numerals 1 5 10 50 100 500 1000
Roman numerals I V X L C D M

These seven letters are used to make thousands of numbers.

How to form Roman numerals

There are rules to form the Roman numerals.

  1. If a symbol is placed before a larger symbol, it is subtracted.
  • Example: IXX = XX – I = 20 – 1 = 19
  1. If a symbol is placed after a larger symbol, it is added.
  • Example: XXI = XX + I = 20 + 1 = 21
  1. We can’t use the same symbol more than three times in the Roman numeral.
  • There is an exception for the number 4. 4 is written as IV, but we often see 4 as IIII on the face of clocks.

Do Roman numerals have zero?

There isn’t a symbol for zero. The ancient Romans didn’t need a zero. However, scholars started to use the letter N for nothing or nulla.

All symbols are added together. Every symbol in Roman numeral has the same value. For example, I is always 1, and L is always 50. Value changes according to its position in the number.

Use of Roman numerals

After the Roman Empire, Arabic numbers took their place in the 14th century. But Roman numerals are still used in some applications.

• Roman numbers are commonly used in year numerals on monuments, structures, tombstones, and other funerary inscriptions.

• Copyright dates at various locations.

•  Names and titles

Roman numerals are often used in royal titles in history to differentiate from each other. It is shown when there is more than one ruler with the same name.

• Names of popes and monarchs

•  Sequels to number the parts of a work

Roman numerals are used to differentiate the works when there is a sequel of any work. There may be seasons of web series, TV shows, series of a film, and plays, video games. A series of books may use Roman numerals.

•  The year of production of television shows, web series, films, and other works of art within the work itself. The year of construction on buildings.

•  Page numbering of introduction and prefaces of books.

• Recurring grand events

• Music theory

Roman symbols are helpful in music theory for organization and indicate triads.

• On the clock

Why IIII instead of IV is on the face of the clocks

We write the symbol IV for the number 4, but on the face of the clocks, we see IIII instead of IV. This is not a mistake. This is called a ‘watchmaker’s four’.

There are some theories of using IIII on clocks-

  • The king of France, Charles V, had told a watchmaker to change IV to IIII. He believed IV as bad luck because we make IV by subtracting one from V.
  • IIII was in use to show the number 4 when it was changed to IV until the 17th
  • Watchmaker’s four may be used for aesthetic purposes and readability.
  • IV and VI may easily confuse people.

Frequently asked questions

How do you read XXIX?

XXIX is a Roman numeral for the Arabic number 29. We read XXIX as 29.

What is XXIV in numbers?

The Roman numeral XXIV is equal to 24.

How many is xxv?

XXV is 10 + 10 + 5 = 25

Related topics-

Roman numerals- 1 to 100

Hi, I am Madhuri Kherde, an educationist, ex-principal of a secondary school in Mumbai, and founder of EnglishLamp.com. I have been teaching English and Mathematics for the last thirty-four years. I like to share my knowledge and experience with others. So I hope you enjoy my posts on this website.