Most Epic Guide To Master Roman Numerals in 2 Mins

Introduction To Roman Numerals

As the names imply, roman numerals are a system of numerical notations that originated from ancient Rome. The Romans developed this numerical system to price different goods and services. Throughout the entire Roman Empire, Romans used roman numbers in everyday activities. After the fall of the Roman Empire, countries across Europe used it even up till the 16th century.

Basically, there are seven symbols in the roman numerals. This includes I, V, X, L, C, D, and M. It may interest you to note that the first usage of roman numerals began between 900 and 800 B.C. Apart from the need for the pricing of goods and services, Romans also used it to count numbers and communicate.

What Do They Mean?

As we’ve mentioned earlier, the Roman numeral has up to seven alphabetical letters. A single line, or “I” represents one unit or finger; the second letter, which is “V,” accurately represents five fingers. This also describes the V-shape formed between the thumb as well as the forefinger. The third letter, which is “X,” represents the combination of two hands. Numerically, the roman letters I, V, X, L, C, D, and M represent 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, and 1000, respectively. Larger numerical values are derived from other Roman symbols.

For instance, the combination of ‘I” and “I” as in “II” represents 2. The numerical twelve is written as “XII”. This is a combination of “X” and “II.”

How To Read Roman Numerals

With roman numerals, numbers are formed with the sequential combination of different varieties of letters. Alongside this is finding the total of those values through addition. The order of the numerals will translate whether the numerals are meant to be added or subtracted.

In such cases, if one or more letter is placed in order of left to right after a letter that has a greater value, addition of those values is needed. If, on the other hand, a letter is placed before a letter with greater value, you need to subtract the lower value from the greater value. For instance, VI represents the number, 6. This is because the letter “V” is greater than “I”. On the other hand, the Roman numeral “IV” represents the number 4. This is because the “I” is before “V,” which means its lower.

Obviously, several other rules are guiding the use of roman numerals. For instance, one of the rules is not to use a symbol for more than three times consecutively or in a row. When it comes to subtraction of amount, only the power of “X,” which is 10, is subtracted. This is evident in cases like “I,” “X,” or “C,” but not “V” and “L” because they are not powers of 10. For instance, the roman value for 95 is not “VC” but “XCV.” This is because “XC” represents 100-10 or 90. So, “XC+V” or 90+5 equals 95.

Moreover, note that only one number can be subtracted from another. For instance, the roman value of 13 isn’t “IIXV.” Logically, this isn’t even right because it seems like 15-1-1. However, if you go in line with the right rule, expressing 13 in roman numerals will be “XIII” or 10+3.

Another rule is that you cannot subtract a number from another number that is even more than 10x greater. It is possible to subtract 1 from 10 as in “IX,” but you cannot subtract 1 from 100 as in “IC.” This doesn’t exist in the rules of Roman numerals. Instead, you should write it like this “XCIX,” which means “XC+IX, or 90+9.”

Expressing Large Roman Numerals

In roman numerals, the largest letter is “M”. According to the rules, only three similar roman letters can be stacked together. The largest number you can make in roman numerals remains “MMMCMXCIX,” which represents 3999. So, how do you write numbers that are greater than 3999?

This is possible. In the numeral system, there is an opportunity for you to draw a line across the top of the numerals in order to multiply it by 1000. Look at the image below:

roman numerals


Zero And Fractions

Currencies also use fractions. Two of the commonly used fractions include twelfths and halves. A single dot (.) represents a twelfth, also called as “uncial.” The Latin letter “S” represent the half, usually shortened as “semis.”

No numeral represent zero. As the fundamental purpose of the invention of Roman numerals was to aid the process of trading, there are no numerals to represent zeros in that process.

Modern Use Of Roman Numerals

There are evidences that the Roman Empire collapsed a thousand years ago. Interestingly, Christianity, which remained one of the earliest targets of Rome’s persecution, engaged in continuous use of the culture’s numbering system.

In the present world, we use this ancient numerical system in a number of ways. Here are a few of the common use of it:


Many modern competitions ranging from the Olympic Games, Super Bowl, and so forth are consistently participating in the use of roman numerals to represents the number of times a particular event has been held. For instance, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is the thirty-second Olympic games, and the roman numerals XXXII represent it.

Astronomy and Chemistry:

Astronomers use the numerical system to designate moons. In chemistry, it denotes the Periodic Table.

Construction Industry:

Construction and real estate industries also utilise roman numerals. They can be found on monuments, buildings, and other structures to represent the year of construction of that particular structure. For instance, a building constructed in the year 2004 can feature the Roman numeral MMIV.


Several movies could make use of roman numerals to illustrate the year of production of the film. For instance, the movie “Gladiator” showed in 2000. So, it features the numeral MM towards the end of its credits. Another typical example is the famous movie titled “Spartacus”, copyrighted in the year 1960 and featured the Roman numeral MCMLX in the credits.


clock, roman numerals

Photo from Pixabay

Many of the modern-day clocks and watches also use roman numerals to represent hours. Even, it could be challenging to see a clock face without roman numerals. These numerals represent hours from “I” to “XII.”

Apart from all the earlier mentioned use of roman numerals, these numerals also refer to Kings, queens, emperors, and popes. For instance, King Henry VII of England, Queen Elizabeth XI of England, King Louis XVI of France, and so forth.

Books and Manuscripts:

Page numbers of books and manuscripts also use roman numbers. Apart from that, writers also use them to label sections and sub-sections in legislation, contracts agreement, terms of reference, and so forth.

The list of the common use of roman numerals goes on and on, and it is endless.

There you have it! Perhaps a few of the things you need to know about Roman numerals.

However, as a parent, you can play a significant role in encouraging your child to feel more comfortable in learning roman numerals. You can keep their minds prepared to search for roman numerals at the end of movies or television programs. With the areas discussed so far, we hope you learned something new about roman numerals.