How To Count to 10 in Spanish

Plus, learn where the Spanish numbers come from

three books
"Volumen" is the Spanish word for "volume.".

Alberto Trejo / EyeEm / Getty

If you want to learn Spanish words that are useful, even for beginners, a good place to start is with the numbers. Here is a guide to the first 10 numbers of Spanish, including their pronunciations and etymologies.

Counting to 10

As in English, Spanish numbers are used before the nouns they refer to. They can also be used, such as when answering a question about how many of something you want to buy.

The pronunciations given here are approximate but are close enough to make you understood. Most of the Spanish consonant sounds are somewhat softer than those in English, and the vowel sounds are more distinct. Check our pronunciation guide for details.

  1. To say "one," say uno ("OO-no," same as the name of the card game, rhymes with "Juno").
  2. To say "two," say dos (like a "dose" of medicine).
  3. To say "three," say tres (like "tress" except that the "r" is pronounced with a flap of the tongue against the roof of the mouth).
  4. To say "four," say cuatro ("KWAH-tro," but again the "r" has a distinctive sound that is unlike English's).
  5. To say "five," say cinco ("SINK-oh").
  6. To say "six," say seis ("SAYSS," rhymes with "trace").
  7. To say "seven," say siete (roughly "SYET-tay" with the first syllable rhyming with the Russian "nyet").
  8. To say "eight," say ocho ("OH-cho," rhymes with "coach-oh").
  9. To say "nine," say nueve (roughly "NWEHV-eh," with the first syllable rhyming with "Bev").
  10. To say "ten," say diez ("dyess," rhymes with "yes").

Note on Using Uno

Unlike the other numbers, uno, often translated as "a" or "an," has gender, which means that its form varies depending on what is being counted.

In Spanish, the default for words, that is the one listed in dictionaries, is masculine, so uno is used when referring to a masculine nouns, while una is used for feminine nouns. Also, uno is shortened to un when it comes immediately before the noun.

These sentences show the forms of uno:

  • Quiero un libro. (I want a book. Libro is masculine.)
  • Quiero uno. (I want one, referring to a book.)
  • Quiero una manzana. (I want an apple. Manzana is feminine.)
  • Quiero una. (I want one, referring to an apple.)

Where These Spanish Numbers Come From

You might notice that most of the numbers are vaguely similar to their English equivalents. "One" and uno both have "n" sounds, for example, and "two" and dos both have vowel sounds written as "o."

This is because both English and Spanish are ultimately derived from Proto-Indo-European (PIE), a long-extinct language that was spoken in central Europe 5,000 or more years ago. No written documents from that language remain, although etymologists have reconstructed much of the language's vocabulary and grammar based what is known about the history of existing European languages.

As you can see, the Spanish versions of these numbers came through Latin, one of the Indo-European derivatives along with the Germanic family of languages that includes English. Being aware of similarly derived English words can help you remember the Spanish ones. (There are no universally accepted spellings for PIE words; the ones given here are ones often used.)

  1. Uno comes from the Latin unus from which English also got "uni-" words such as "unison" and "unitary." The PIE form was hoi-no.
  2. Dos comes from the Latin duos, a form of duo, and the PIE duwo. Related English words include "duo," "duet," and "duplex."
  3. Tres is unchanged from Latin; the PIE word was trei. These are the source of the "tri-" prefix used in words such as "tricycle" and "trinity."
  4. Cuatro comes from the Latin quattor, from where we get the English word "quarter." All come from the PIE kwetwer. Both the numbers for four and five picked up the "f" sound in the Germanic languages for reasons that aren't entirely clear.
  5. Cinco comes from the Latin quinque and the PIE penkwe. Among the related English words are "cinquain" and "pentagon."'
  6. Seis comes from the Latin sex and the PIE s(w)eks. The variation "hex-" is used in English words such as "hexagon."
  7. Siete comes from the Latin septum and the PIE séptm. The origins can be seen in English words such as "septet" and "September."
  8. Ocho comes from the Latin octo and the PIE oḱtō. Related English words include "octet" and "octagon."
  9. Nueve comes from the Latin novem and the PIE newn. English has few related words, although a nonagon is a nine-sided pentagon.
  10. Diez comes from the Latin decem and the PIE déḱm̥t. English has dozens of related words, which include "decimate," "decimal," and "decathlon."