What does mcmxc111 mean in Roman numerals?

About Roman numerals

We write, like almost all countries in this world, arabic respectively Indian-Arabic numerals in a European form.

It is often mistakenly assumed that we Latin numbers use. Only our letter system in Germany, the United States, France and many other countries is based on the Latin script. Latin numbers only exist as numerals, but not the digits.

In contrast, the Roman numerals are represented by Latin letters, which we also use today in German-speaking countries. Namely by the letters I, V, X, L, C, D and M.

The spelling is usually as capital letters in a font with serifs. Typical fonts on the computer would be for this Times New Roman, Droid serif or Georgia.

Adoption of today's spelling of numbers in the Middle Ages

It was not until the 13th century that Roman numerals gradually disappeared from Europe. They were replaced by the Indo-Arabic numerals used today, which led to the further development of mathematics and the sciences through a clearer spelling and the presence of the zero.

Calculating with the Roman numerals from ancient times (800 BC to approx. 600 AD) is possible, but not very practical.

Even if there are additional notations for large numbers such as 10,000 (X or also ↂ or ⅭⅭⅠↃↃ), 500,000 (L or also ↇ or ⅠↃↃↃ), 1,000,000 (M or CCCCIↃↃↃↃ) and so on, these representations are quite error-prone in everyday use.

The 7 characters of the Roman numerals

I (1), V (5), X (10), L (50), C (100), D (500) and M (1000).

There are a few rules to follow when dealing with Roman numerals. This includes:

  • they only map natural numbers, but without 0 (zero)
  • the basic numbers (I, X, C, M) may not be written more than three times next to each other
  • the intermediate numbers (V, L, D) may only be placed next to each other once
  • the numbers I, X and C may only be deducted from one of the two next higher numbers. That means: XL for 40 is allowed, but IL for supposedly 39 is not. The 39 is spelled correctly XXXIX.

Download: table with often used Roman numerals

Sources and further information: