Indian numerals

From Academic Kids

Template:Table Numeral Systems

India has produced many numeral systems. Arguably, any of these numeral systems could be called the Indian numeral system. For the purpose of this article however the term Indian Numeral System will refer only to the positional base 10 numeral systems that developed in India and the term Indian numerals will refer only to the numerals that are part of the Devanagari script.

The Indian Numeral system is commonly referred to in the West as Arabic numerals, since it reached Europe through the Arabs.

Written below is a list of the Indian numerals, their corresponding Arabic numeral and their Hindi pronunciation.

Devanagari NumeralArabic NumeralPronunciation

Today these numerals are used in all Indian languages that use the Devanagari script. Most South Asian languages which use other Brahmic scripts use the Indian numeral system, except with their own symbols for each numeral.


The Indian numerals have been traced back to about 50 BC. Prior to that, the Brahmi numerals used similar forms, except that 10 was represented as a fish. It is this fish shape that became the "10" of the Indian numerals. This numeral system spread to the Middle East. When the Arabs introduced these numerals to Europe, the Europeans called them the Arabic numerals, although the Arabs continue to call their numerals the Indian numerals. In 662 a Nestorian bishop living in what is now called Iraq said of the numeral system:

I will omit all discussion of the science of the Indians ... of their subtle discoveries in astronomy - discoveries that are more ingenious than those of the Greeks and the Babylonians - and of their valuable methods of calculation which surpass description. I wish only to say that this computation is done by means of nine signs. If those who believe that because they speak Greek they have arrived at the limits of science would read the Indian texts they would be convinced even if a little late in the day that there are others who know something of value.

Arabs learnt the Hindu (Indian) numeral and transmitted it to Europeans. For a long time, this numerical system was mistakenly named as Arabic Numerals; now the world mathematical community is grudgingly and half-heartedly recognizing it as Hindu-Arabic numerals!


Georges Ifrah, The Universal History of Numbers. John Wiley, cijfers


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