What number is “VIII” in Roman numerals? The answer may seem like it’d be intuitive: You might think that the correct answer would simply be the letter “V”. After all, we write “9” as “IX”, and we call these symbols “Roman numerals,” so we might assume that Romans wrote the number 8 as something like IIII. We also know from our time spent with Arabic numbers that they were aware of place value, so they must have had some reason to write their numbers this way.
In modern English language usage, roman numerals usually denotes normal arabic numerals. The confusion is understandable, as the Arabic positional numerical system which we use today originated from a western variant of Hindu-Arabic numerals, passed on by Muslim mathematicians to Italian mathematician Fibonacci in 1202 AD.
As for Roman numerals, they are not really used anymore except in some specific occasions such as during medieval times when few people know how to read and write which rendered other systems necessary. In modern days however, one can still see them on clocks or watches even though nowadays digital format would be more common.
One example that you might have noticed before would be the logo of Tissot Watches . As shown below, it clearly shows roman numeral “IIII” instead of “IV” which is normally used today.
Roman Numerals are symbols normally used in ancient Rome for writing numbers. There are seven basic symbols which are combined to represent larger number values.
The roman numerals system is the most widely used numeral system in history. It was developed around 500 BC at least according to some sources, but it could have been as early as… 100 AD!
No one knows exactly where or when this numerical system was invented, but what’s sure is that it has roots in Etruscan culture, a civilization of pre-roman vintage. This civilization influenced Rome profoundly until its downfall around 4th century BCE .
The decimal digits are an evolution from Egyptian numerals. The decimal digits including zero (0) are relatively recent inventions though, having emerged much.
VIII sequence is just like the Arabic sequence where the next digit is placed on the left.
Roman numerals are read from left to right which means that if you want to write VIII, it will be written as VIII and not VIII like modern roman numerals. The number eight in Roman numerals is written as VIII (5+1) instead of VIV (5+1+1). You can consider this an exception since there aren’t many cases where you need to write 8 using Roman Numerals. However, since they’re closely related modern arabic numbers, should know that in general the words for numbers are written using the same words except that there is no “and” between each number.
The structure of Roman numerals is additive, but this rule does not apply to numbers above 3999.
Roman Numeral System can be represented as follows:
What’s really interesting is that even though the Hindu-Arabic numeral system was invented 500 years before, it took quite some time before it was widely adopted in Europe. The reason why it became so popular around 1500AD wasn’t simply because of Fibonacci’s publication which has had little influence on his contemporaries or at least far less than what many people might think. It was really due to its ease of use and the fact that decimal fractions could easily be represented as a sequence of digits.
Roman Numerals were never used in ancient times to represent fractions or decimal numbers despite their additive structure. It certainly was not easy to add, subtract nor even divide Roman numerals! Not to mention the fact that you had to memorize one symbol for each power of ten. That’s obviously time consuming and inefficient compared with modern arabic numbers which are based on place values.
For example, here is how you write 1776 using roman numerals: MDCCLXXVI. The number system of our modern times can be easily represented by grouping these symbols of six characters by threes: M D C C L X X V I (1776). Some people might argue that this is a very interesting way to represent a number. And one might even say that it’s rather cool, but if you ask me I would have preferred just looking at the first three digits and getting the idea of what this number represents without having to read all these meaningless characters…
The roman decimal number system was good enough for counting only quantities in the range of 1 to 3999 since beyond this point one can not represent large values using roman numerals efficiently enough. For this reason, after reaching 3999 the roman numeral system was no longer used. This is probably why nowadays clock or watches sometimes use IV instead of IIII because they are well aware that people don’t care about numbers above 4!
As mentioned earlier, roman numerals are based on additive structure which means that it’s easy to add, multiply but not so much to divide. Addition is achieved by simply adding the numbers together. For example, XVIII+VIIII=XXXI (18 + 9 = 29). However, when it comes to subtraction things become pretty complicated.
For instance, in order to subtract two single digit numbers you need at least another number in order to be able to represent them using roman numerals combined with some other symbol like for instance an overline or a bar.
Take XII–IX for instance:
Obviously this is impossible if we consider only single digits! So it becomes necessary to use several symbols next to each other (in our case XLI).
The following example shows that it is possible to subtract X+VIIII from XLVIIII but not LVIII-XVI. This can be achieved by writing XV instead of XVI next to LXX in the second one which is easier for us to read. And this is how one would write these numbers using roman numerals: LXVIII and LXXVI respectively! What a headache…
For subtraction, you need more than 1 character. But what would happen if both numbers are made up of more than 1 character?!
Take the following examples: XXIX-XLII or CI-LXI. Now things are getting even worse because now, not only do we have two digit quantities but also more than 1 character next to each other so it’s very complicated.
Even more problematic is the need of negative numbers which are represented by setting a bar on top of the number…
Might seem simple but for some people it can get quite confusing! And even more so when you have fractions involved!