While thinking just now, it struck me that it's not immediately obvious to me whether "one-hundred and twenty two", spoken or written, can be considered using Arabic numbers (122). Is there something about that phrase that fundamentally uses Arabic numbers rather than Roman ones?

In Roman numbers, it would be "LLXXII". Would one really say "ELL, ELL, EXX, EXX, AY, AY" to spell such a Roman number out? If you say "one-hundred and twenty two", is that in any way involving Arabic numbers?

  • 3
    They're Arabic numerals not numbers, and that phrase strictly refers to only the numerals, 0-9.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 22, 2020 at 6:55
  • 2
    The question is confusing. Surely, "one-hundred and twenty two" is a decimal number in English? There's nothing Arabic about it.
    – prash
    Jan 22, 2020 at 13:04
  • 1
    It should be CXXII
    – fdb
    Jan 22, 2020 at 14:35

2 Answers 2


Absolutely nothing to do with it. We say numbers the way we do in English because that's how they've developed in English. (Variants, such as ''three score'' or ''five and twenty'' exist, but are archaic).

We say the number the same whether we write it in "Arabic" numerals, Roman numerals, or a tally.

[Side comment: we quite often get questions here which appear to assume that language is written language, or that the written language is the primary mode. In general, this is untrue. Most languages in human history were never written; probably the majority of people in human history have been unable to write. But languages grew, changed, spread, evolved, and sometimes died without writing. The cases where writing has had any effect at all on a spoken language are exceedingly rare. Here, the writing is numerals, but the same applies.]


The phrase "one-hundred twenty-two" shows that you're using some decimal numbering system (because you're using 122=1×100+2×10+2×1 rather than e.g. 122=2×60+2×1). Arabic numerals are one kind of decimal numbering writing system. Roman numerals, too, are decimal or at least semi-decimal.

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