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  • How do numbers work for Vikings?

    June 14, 2021 2 min read

    numbers Vikings

    You already know that the Vikings had their own alphabet, which is also called the futhark and which has practically nothing to do with the French alphabet that we and you manipulate today. But if this is a well-known fact, it should also be noted that in addition to having their own alphabet , the Vikings also have their own number system which works in a very particular way. How does this numbering system work? Answer.

    Numbers among the Vikings: what you need to know

    Even if we don't often think about it, the Celts and the Vikings have always known how to count and calculate. However, as true as their alphabet differs from ours, these people did not count or calculate like us. For our part, we use a base 10 system, that is to say a decimal system. In this system for which the 10 fingers of our hands represent a support, a pack of ten units is symbolized by a ten.

    viking figures


    The first difference between us and the Vikings in terms of the number system is that the latter counted not only with their fingers, but also with their ten toes. So, while we use a base 10 system, they used a base 20 system. Therefore, everything started from 20. The number 40 was considered “two 20s”, the number 80 was considered “four 20s”. Terms therefore existed to designate “twice or double”, “three times or triple”, “four times or quadruple”.

    We are talking about a vicesimal system. Thanks to this vicesimal numbering system which also served as a tracking system, the Vikings managed to navigate the seas with diabolical precision . It should however be noted that some vicesimal forms still remain today, in particular in the reading of the numbers 80 (eighty), 90 (ninety), etc.

    The number 9 among the Vikings

    If in good democrat, it is allowed to say that all the figures are equal , the Vikings do not hear the thing of the same ear. Indeed, to the number 9, they attached crucial importance. It is a number that represents the number of kingdoms (Asgard, Midgard, Jötunheim, Svartalfheim, Niflheim, Vanaheim, Alfheim, Muspellheim, Helheim) that make up the world in Norse mythology.

    The 9 also represents the number of days and nights spent by the god Odin hanging upside down from a windswept tree . It is also the number of steps taken by Thor before dying during Ragnarok while he was fighting against the Midgard Serpent. Several other symbols are associated with the number 9 among these Nordic peoples.

    viking symbol


    The writing of numbers among the Vikings

    In general, the Vikings wrote digits and numbers as whole words. Numbers are sometimes noted, but this is very rare. And if that should happen, a number can be represented by the first letter of the cipher word . Also note that from 100, there is no ordinal number in Old Norse. So that's the essential thing to know about the numbers among the Vikings.

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