Top of chapter Contents Bibliography 9.1. Quick Start 9.2. Cardinal numbers 9.3. Ordinal numbers

9. Numerals

9.1. Quick Start

Numbers are of two kinds, cardinal and ordinal. Cardinal numbers (such as Modern English one, two . . .) may function either as nouns or as adjectives:

As noun:
Fēower sīðon seofon bēoð eahta and twentiġ
[Four times seven are twenty-eight]
As adjective:
On ānum dæġe bēoð fēower and twentiġ tīda
[In one day there are twenty-four hours]

Ordinal numbers (such as Modern English first, second . . .) are always adjectives, and all of them are declined weak except for ōðer ‘second’, which is always strong:

Þone forman dæġ hīe hēton Sunnandæġ
[They called the first day Sunday]
Þone ōðerne dæġ hīe hēton Mōnandæġ
[They called the second day Monday]

9.2. Cardinal numbers

Here are the cardinal numbers one-twelve:

ān fēower seofon tīen
twēġen, twā fīf eahta endleofan
þrīe, þrēo siex nigon twelf

The cardinal ān is usually declined as a strong adjective; when it is declined weak (āna) it means ‘alone’: hē āna læġ ‘he lay alone’. The cardinals two and three have their own peculiar inflectional system, shown in table 9.1.

Table 9.1. The numerals twēġen and þrīe
  masculine neuter feminine
‘two’ nominative twēġen twā, tū twā
accusative
genitive twēġa, twēġra
dative twǣm, twām
‘three’ nominative þrīe þrēo þrēo
accusative
genitive þrēora
dative þrim

If you substitute a b- for the tw- of twēġen, you will get bēġen (, , etc.) ‘both’.

Cardinals above three occasionally have grammatical endings, but generally are not declined at all. The numbers thirteen through nineteen are made by adding -tīene to the numbers þrēo through nigon: þrēotīene, fēowertīene, etc. From twenty through the sixties, numbers are in the form ān and twentiġ ‘twenty-one’.

Starting with seventy, Old English prefixes hund- to the expected forms: hundseofontiġ ‘seventy’, hundeahtatiġ ‘eighty’, hundnigontiġ ‘ninety’ hundtēontiġ or ān hund ‘one hundred’, hundtwelftiġ or hundtwentiġ ‘one hundred and twenty’. These curious forms seem to reflect a number system, common to all the earliest Germanic languages, in which counting proceeded by twelves and sixty was a significant number in much the same way that one hundred is now.

9.3. Ordinal numbers

Here are the ordinal numbers first-twelfth:

forma, fyrmest fēorða seofoða tēoða
ōðer fīfta eahtoða endlyfta
þridda siexta nigoða twelfta

For ‘first’ you may also find ǣrest, but fyrst is not common.

For ‘thirteenth’ to ‘nineteenth’, add the element -tēoða in place of ordinal -tīene: for example, þrēotēoða ‘thirteen’. For ‘twentieth’ and higher, add -tigoða, -tegoða or -teogoða: fīfteogoða ‘fiftieth’, fīf and hundeahtatigoða ‘eighty-fifth’.