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Latin has four classes of number words. Can Roman numerals (I, II, …) be used to for any class, or should they be restricted to, say, cardinals and ordinals? For example, can I abbreviate any of unus, primus, singuli, and semel (appropriately declined), and X any of decem, decimus, deni, decies? In English, Roman numerals are mainly used for ordinal numbers, but my question concerns Latin.

  • @BenKovitz To me "numeral" means a number word such as "three" or "quattuor", whereas "number" means something like "214" or "CCXIV". Are you sure your edit to reverse this is correct? – Joonas Ilmavirta May 1 '17 at 19:54
  • Numerals are the symbols (1, 2, 3 .... I, II, III ....) which represent numbers (one, two, three ...) – fdb May 1 '17 at 21:58
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    I've seen the numerals used to represent both cardinals and ordinals, but never things like distributives (singuli, deni) or adverbs (semel, decies). I'll be interested to see whether others have encountered those uses. There's also the use of numerals as a prefix in terms like Xvir (decemvir), VIvir (sevir), IIIvir (triumvir). – cnread May 1 '17 at 23:04
  • Yes. Numbers are abstract quantities, numerals are specific representations thereof. See Numeral system, Arabic numerals, Roman numerals, Church numerals, this, this, etc. English vocabulary finds a way to distinguish almost anything! – Ben Kovitz May 2 '17 at 0:44
  • @BenKovitz I don't mind being corrected; I'm happy to learn. It's not important for the question itself, but I can't resist commenting. // Aren't both tres and III representations of an abstract quantity? By your definition they'd both be numerals. I could accept that. I view the Roman number CL the same way as the (Arabic) decimal number 150. And also Wikipedia (not a good authority, I know) seems to agree with me that numerals are number words. – Joonas Ilmavirta May 2 '17 at 3:07

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