What is IV in Roman Numerals?
IV in Roman numerals stands for the number 4. This can be confusing at first, but with a little explanation and study, it soon becomes clearer.
Why is the Number Four Not Written as IIII?
One of the most common problems that anybody new to and learning about Roman numerals encounters is the number 4, or IV when written in Roman numerals.
This is because the concept and way in which 1, 2 and 3 are written is easy to grasp, in that it is I, II and III respectively. However, this sequence does not continue on ad infinitum (a nice Latin language reference there!), i.e. IIII, IIIII, IIIIII etc. This would take up too much space and take too long to write as the numbers became larger; just imagine when you got to eighty or one hundred or beyond. As a result, methods and rules needed to be devised in order to make writing down a number much more quickly and easily.
This comes in the form of using other letters besides I to represent numbers. Not only can these characters by themselves represent a number, but they can also be combined to represent other numbers... which sounds more confusing than it actually is. More information can be found on our Roman numerals page, but as far as the number four is concerned, it is written as IV in Roman numerals because:
- I = 1
- V = 5
And when a letter is before another one, it is subtracted from the one that comes after it. So, IV essentially means 5 – 1, which equals 4.
Understanding Other Roman Numerals
At first glance it would appear that there is a lot to learn and a lot of potential confusion that may arise when trying to figure out Roman numerals and how the Romans recorded numbers. In reality though, with only seven letters to remember, and a similar pattern of rules to remember in terms of subtracting or adding to the number that a particular character represents, it soon becomes much easier to convert Roman numerals and translate them into our everyday numbers.
For much more information on Roman numerals, including their origin, modern uses, a more comprehensive explanation of how to read them, and even whether the Romans could count beyond the number 3,999, please check out our Roman numerals page by clicking here.