How To Understand Roman Numerals

Updated on January 9, 2014

Learn Roman Numerals

Roman Numeral


Roman numerals have been around for about 3,000 years, and they became a recognized number system that was used around the world. Today, roman numerals are still used around the world. Many people see it as a classy way to display numbers, while others simply love using roman numerals in the business, media and design world, books, clocks, chemistry, math’s and more, meaning roman numerals will continue to be used for many years to come.

In recent years more and more people have started to get roman numeral tattoos, proving just how popular this numeric system still is. There are still many people who are unsure as to what some of the symbols mean and how to read and write them. Below you will find an explanation of each roman numeral and what each of them means so you can enjoy reading them too.

When a smaller value is placed in front of a numeral that has a larger value, you need to subtract the smaller from the large. For example, when I is placed before X giving you IX, the value is 9. When these numerals are reversed: XI the value is 11.

If you would like to write the number 8, you should not write IIX as this does not mean 8 as only one smaller number can be placed before a larger one (just so you know VIII = 8).

Hundreds Tens and Thousands

When it comes to writing hundreds, tens and thousands, you should remember that each of these numerals are written as separate values. They are written as such that if we were to copy it using our numbers, 2014 would be written as 10001000104. So when it comes to writing 2014 in roman numerals you would write: MMXIV

Remember M= 1,000, X = 10 and IV = 4.

Do you know how to convert roman numerals?

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Writing 1, 2, 3 and 4

As you can see in the above table, there are no 2’s, 3s or 4’s, this is because the Roman Number I represents 1, but it’s also used to represent 2 and 3 as indicated below:

I = 1

II = 2

III = 3

When you want to write the number 4, rather than writing IIII, you write IV (which is 5 minus 1), to get the value of 4, as it’s a much shorter way of writing it.

Writing 5, 6, 7 and 8

V is the Roman number for 5, and when it comes to writing the numbers 6, 7, and 8 you write it as below:

V = 5

VI = 6

VII = 7

VIII = 8

Writing the number 9

When writing the number 9 as a Roman numeral, we would use exactly the same principle we use when writing the number 4, we placed a lower value numeral next to a higher value one. Rather than writing VIIII (5 plus 4), it’s much quicker to write IX, which is 10 minus 1, which of course equals 9.

Writing 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14

In Roman numerals the number 10 is written as X, and when it comes to writing 11, 12, 13 and 14 they are written as below:

X = 10

XI = 11

XII = 12

XIII = 13

XIV = 14 (remember X = 10 and IV = 4)

Writing the number 15

When it comes to writing the number 15 as a Roman numeral, you write it as XV as X = 10 and V = 5.

What is the value of XXVIII

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Writing the numbers 20, 30 and 40

When it comes to writing the numbers 20, 30 and 40, it should be done as follows:

XX = 20

XXX = 30

XL = 40 (remember L= 50, with an X [which is the value of 10] in front of it, this formula translates as L minus X [50 minus 10] = 40)

Writing 50 to 500

When it comes to writing the number 50, all the way through to the number 500, it should be done as follows:

L = 50

LX = 60 (that’s 50 plus 10)

LXX = 70

LXXX = 80

XC = 90 (C = 100, if you place an X in front of it, the sum equates to 100 minus 10, which is 90)

C = 100

CX = 110 (C plus X (10) = 110)

CXX = 120

CXXX = 130

CXV = 140 (C = 100, plus XV which = 40 as V is 50, minus the X which is equal to 10)

CV = 150

CVX = 160

CVXX = 170

CVXXX = 180

CXC = 190 (C = 100, XC = 90, as C minus X [10] equals 90)

CC = 200

CCC = 300

CD = 400 (C = 100, D = 500 so D minus C = 400)

D = 500

Writing 900 and 1,000

CM = 900

M = 1000

If you ever come across a Roman numeral that has a line above it, you need to multiply the value of the number by 1000. This means that an L with a line above it is 50,000.

Just think if you were to come across 15 written as IIIIIIIIIIIIIII, it would be almost impossible to quickly count 15, which is why someone came up with a much easier system and now XV means 15, making it so much easier to count.

Learning roman numerals may seem a little daunting, but with practice you will get there. You probably don’t remember learning to recognize the numbers we use today, but at one point you may have wondered if you will ever be able to count.

Just keep practicing the numerals, try to incorporate them into your daily life. Next time you write yourself a note, instead of numbers, use roman numerals so you have them appear in your everyday life and you will become more familiar with them, and they won’t seem so alien after all. Plus, when you are stuck just refer to any roman numeral converter for help. There is no issue in it rather it is much better to consult a converter instead of doing something wrong.


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    • profile image

      Aarya Ray Chaudhuri 

      2 months ago

      so what is xxx?

    • profile image


      18 months ago

      the main thing is just to understand the numerical's alphabet and always remember during subtraction the bigger value comes second and in addition the bigger value comes first

    • profile image

      uhhhhh i dont get it 

      5 years ago

      i don't really get it +_+


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