How to Write Roman Numerals

Understanding Roman Numerals
Servulo Torres/Moment Open/Getty Images

Roman numerals have been around for a long time. In fact, as the name suggests, Roman numerals started in ancient Rome between 900 and 800 B.C. Roman numerals originated as a set of seven basic symbols, symbolizing numbers. As time and language progressed, those markings transformed into the letters we use today. While it may seem strange to use Roman numerals when numbers can be used, knowing how to use them can come in handy.

 

Roman Numerals in Everyday Life

Roman numerals are all around us and you've almost certainly seen and used them, even without realizing it. Once you familiarize themselves with the letters and how to use them, you'll be surprised at how often they come up.

Below are several places that Roman numerals are often found:

  1. Roman numerals are often used in books, and chapters are counted for by using them.
  2. Pages are also numbered with Roman numerals in appendices or introductions.
  3. When reading a play, the acts are separated into sections marked with Roman numerals.
  4. Roman numerals can be seen on fancy clocks and watches. 
  5. Annual sporting events, like the Summer and Winter Olympics and the Super Bowl, also mark the passage of years by using Roman numerals. 
  6. Many generations have a family name that has been passed down and includes a Roman numeral to signify the family member. For example, if a man's name is Paul Jones and his father and grandfather were also named Paul, that would make him Paul Jones III. Royal families also use this system. 

    How Roman Numerals Are Made

    To make Roman numerals, seven letters of the alphabet are used. The letters, which are always capitalized, are I, V, X, L, C, D, and M. The table below illustrates the value for each of these numerals.

    Roman numerals are arranged and combined in a specific order to represent numbers.

    Numerals (their values) are added together when written in groups, so XX = 20 (because 10+10 = 20). However, one cannot put more than three of the same numerals together. In other words, one can write III for three, but can't use IIII. Instead, four is indicated with IV.

    If a letter with a smaller value is placed before a letter with a larger value, one subtracts the smaller from the larger. For example, IX = 9 because one subtracts 1 from 10. It works the same way if a smaller number comes after a larger number, only one adds to it. For instance, XI = 11.

    50 Roman Numerals

    The following list of 50 Roman numerals will help one learn how Roman numerals are created.

    • Numerals 1 to 10:
      • 1 = I
      • 2 = II
      • 3 = III
      • 4 = IV
      • 5 = V
      • 6 = VI
      • 7 = VII
      • 8 = VIII
      • 9 = IX
      • 10 = X
    • Numerals 11 to 20:
      • 11 = XI
      • 12 = XII
      • 13 = XIII
      • 14 = XIV
      • 15 = XV
      • 16 = XVI
      • 17 = XVII
      • 18 = XVIII
      • 19 = XIX
      • 20 = XX
    • Numerals 30 to 50:
      • 30 = XXX
      • 40 = XL
      • 50 = L

    Roman Numeral Symbols

    Ione
    Vfive
    Xten
    Lfifty
    Cone hundred
    Dfive hundred
    Mone thousand
    Format
    mla apa chicago
    Your Citation
    Fleming, Grace. "How to Write Roman Numerals." ThoughtCo, Dec. 28, 2017, thoughtco.com/roman-numerals-1857217. Fleming, Grace. (2017, December 28). How to Write Roman Numerals. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/roman-numerals-1857217 Fleming, Grace. "How to Write Roman Numerals." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/roman-numerals-1857217 (accessed February 20, 2018).