How to read roman numerals – How to Read Roman Numerals

Roman numerals explained for parents | Reading Roman numerals

What are Roman numerals?

Roman numerals are the numbers that were used in ancient Rome, which employed combinations of letters from the Latin alphabet (I, V, X, L, C, D and M).

Numbers are represented by combinations of the following symbols:

Numbers are represented by putting the symbols into various combinations in different orders. The symbols are then added together, for example, I + I + I, written as III, is 3. To write 11 we add X (10) and I (1) and write it as XI. For 22 we add X and X and I and I, so XXII.

Roman numerals are usually written in order, from largest to smallest and from left to right, but more than three identical symbols never appear in a row. Instead, a system of subtraction is used: when a smaller number appears in front of a larger one, that needs to be subtracted, so IV is 4 (5 — 1) and IX is 9 (10 — 1).

The subtraction system is used in six cases:

    ⋅ I is placed before V and X: IV (4) and IX (9).
    ⋅ X is placed before L (50) and C (100): XL (40) and XC (90).
    ⋅ C is placed before D (500) and M (1000): CD (400) and CM (900).

When do children learn about Roman numerals in primary school?

Under the new 2014 curriculum, children are required to know what Roman numerals are and be able to decipher and write them. The previous numeracy framework did not make any mention of Roman numerals, so this is a new concept introduced into primary schools. 

These are the objectives related to Roman numerals that are introduced in Key Stage 2:

Year 3
Tell and write the time from an analogue clock, including using Roman numerals from I to XII, and 12-hour and 24-hour clocks

Year 4
Read Roman numerals from 1 to 100 (I to C) and know that, over time, the numeral system changed to include the concept of 0 and place value

Year 5
Read Roman numerals to 1,000 (M) and recognise years written in Roman numerals

Helping your child with Roman numerals at home

Roman numerals are still used in a number of ways in the modern world:

  • When referring to royalty, emperors and popes (so Queen Elizabeth II, Pope Benedict XVI)
  • On buildings, to mark the year of contruction
  • On clock faces
  • In book listings
  • In film or TV programme credits, to show the year of production

You can help your child to feel more comfortable with Roman numerals by encouraging them to look for Roman numerals at the end of TV programmes or to show publication dates of books. Encourage them to use the table above to try and work out what the dates are. You could also give them various numbers to translate into Roman numerals or try some of TheSchoolRun’s Roman numerals puzzles and worksheets (see below).

And why not download and print our free Roman numerals dice and use them instead of normal dice when playing games?

Roman Numerals

Roman Numerals is an old decimal numeric system which represents the numbers as combinations of the following Latin letters: I, V, X, L, C, D, M (Roman Numerals Symbols). By using combinations of these symbols it is possible to record Roman Numeral Numbers. This system based on 7 Roman Numeral Symbols was invented and used by the Romans starting from the 7th — the 6th century BC and almost till the late Middle Ages. In our times, Roman Numerals are sometimes used for scientific (especially in chemistry, pharmacy, photography, seismology, etc) and some daily purposes (for example, in the names of the monarchs, on the clock face, for page numbering, etc.)

At this website, you can make Roman Numerals Conversion by using our online Roman Numerals Converter, as well as a number of the most commonly used Roman Numerals Charts, including the ones for 1-10, 1-20, 1-100, and 100 — 1000. This Roman Numerals Converter is very simple and user-friendly, and in order to make a fast Roma Numeral Conversion, just enter the number to the box on the right and press ‘Convert to Roman’ button.

Roman Numerals Examples

These are some examples of Roman numerals:

  • The current year is 2018, and it is written as MMXVIII with Roman Numeral symbols.
  • Year 2017 is written as MMXVII with Roman Numeral symbols.
  • Time 12:00 with roman numerals must be written as XII.
  • Time 08:00 with roman numerals must be written as VIII.

Roman Numerals in films

An American horror movie series Saw, directed by James Wan, use Roman Numerals in their titles: Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV, Saw V, Saw VI.

Also a space opera movie series Star Wars use Roman Numerals: Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones, Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.

The Godfather sequels, inspired by the novel of Mario Puzo, numbered with Roman Numerals: The Godfather Part II, The Godfather Part III.

Also Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky sequels came with Latin numbers: Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky V.

Roman Numerals in Monarchs

Roman numerals are used to distinguish monarchs with the same name. These are some famous names:

  • John III Sobieski was king of Poland and born in 1629.
  • Elizabeth II is the queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
  • Cyrus II, also known as Cyrus the Great was the founder of the Achaemenian Empire.
  • King Louis XIV of France, also known as Louis le Grand, was born in 1638. He ruled the country during the one of its most powerful times.
  • Henry V of England, was king of his country from 1413 until 1422.

Roman Numerals in Olympic Games

Roman Numerals are also used to identify sporting events. For example, the Olympic Games, the world’s foremost sports competition use Roman Numerals.

A four-year period indicated by Roman Numerals of which the first Olympics in 1896 initiated Olympiad I.
Here are some examples:

  • The Games of the XXXI Olympiad (i.e. 31st), also known as The 2016 Summer Olympics were held in Rio de Janeiro.
  • XXIII Olympic Winter Games, also known as The 2018 Winter Olympics took place in Pyeongchang County, Gangwon Province, South Korea.
  • The Games of the I Olympiad, held in Athens was the first modern international Olympic Games in our history. It took place in 1896, as MDCCCXCVI with Roman Numerals.
  • The XXVII Olympiads (i.e. 27th) began on September 15, 2000 in Sydney.
  • The Games of the XXXII Olympiad, also known as The 2020 Summer Olympics were scheduled to be held in Tokyo.
  • The 1924 Summer Olympics, alternatively known as the Games of the VIII Olympiad were hosted in Paris. And it was the second time for the city, after 1900.
Apple Uses a Roman Numeral for iPhone X

Apple iPhone X is an Apple’s tenth anniversary smartphone that was released on October 2017. It is also known as Apple iPhone 10 or Apple iPhone Ten.
X indicates the ten in Roman Numerals and this amazing phone has advanced features such as incredible screen and design with stainless steel frame and dust/water resistance ability. Also it comes with a surprise: it has no home button.
There is no doubt iPhone X is the best phone ever (so far) developed and marketed by Apple Inc.

Roman Numerals in Major Arcana Cards

Roman numerals are also used in the Major Arcana cards in a tarot deck. There are 22 Major Arcana cards. And all except the first one have Roman Numerals. Each card also has a name. And all of them symbolize the cosmic forces.

  • (0) The Fool
  • I The Magician
  • II The High Priestess
  • III The Empress
  • IV The Emperor
  • V The Hierophant
  • VI The Lovers
  • VII The Chariot
  • VIII Justice
  • IX The Hermit
  • X The Wheel of Fortune
  • XI Strength
  • XII The Hanged Man
  • XIII Death
  • XIV Temperance
  • XV The Devil
  • XVI The Tower
  • XVII The Star
  • XVIII The Moon
  • XIX The Sun
  • XX Judgement
  • XXI The World
Watch Time Numbers in Roman Numerals

In clock faces and watches, numbers are represented by these Roman Numerals:

I: 1, II: 2, III: 3, IIII: 4, V: 5, VI: 6, VII: 7, VIII: 8, IX: 9, X: 10, XI: 11, XII: 12

As you notice, the numeral 4 is written as Roman Numeral IIII, not IV. The actual Roman numeral is IV of course, but the IIII can also be used. You can see this usage in a lot of modern and old clocks and watches. But it is not a universal form. For example, Big Ben in London uses a regular IV for four o’clock.

Roman Numerals Various Examples
  • The Wall is one of the best selling albums of all time by Pink Floyd and it was released in 1979. It is written as MCMLXXIX with Roman Numeral symbols.
  • A charter of liberties known as Magna Carta Libertatum was signed in 1215. It is written as MCCXV with Roman Numerals.
  • 1789 as MDCCLXXXIX, the beginning of The French Revolution. It ended the absolute monarchy in French. And in 1792 as MDCCXCII, the French Republic was founded.
  • 1859 as MDCCCLIX, the publication date of “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin. It is also the beginning of modern biology.
  • The Grapes of Wrath, a novel by American author John Steinbeck was published in 1939. It is written as MCMXXXIX in Roman Numerals.
  • 2001 as MMI, the start of the 21st century and the third millennium.
  • 1983 is the year that American singer Michael Jackson recorded «Thriller». This year is written as MCMLXXXIII in Roman Numerals.
  • Instagram, a popular worldwide social networking service was launched in 2010. This free photo and video sharing app was created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. You can write 2010 as MMX in Roman Numerals.
The Super Bowls and Roman Numerals

Super Bowl is the championship game of the National Football League (NFL) in USA. It is an annual game which is hosted by a different city.
Super Bowl uses Roman numerals to identify each game. For example, Super Bowl I was played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 15, 1967. And at this first game, The NFL’s champion Green Bay Packers defeated the AFL’s champion Kansas City Chiefs, 35–10.
The recent Super Bowl LII was played in U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minneapolis on Sunday, February 4, 2018. The game was the fifty-second Super Bowl to determine the champion of the NFL for the 2017 season. As you can see, LII is 52 in Roman numerals.

Roman Numerals symbols

Roman NumeralNumber



This is the new home of my blog that helps people read and write Roman Numerals. Since March 2007 I’ve been helping people write Roman Numerals (on the WordPress blog) for birthdays, anniversaries, children’s birthdays and tattoos.

I have answered over 1000 questions about how to write Roman Numerals.

Please feel free to continue asking questions via the comments. I’ll answer ASAP!

If you want to read through the 1000+ questions and answers click the following link:

1000+ Questions and Answers About Roman Numerals


Want to impress your friends and family? Learn how to read and write Roman Numerals. It’s easy!

First there are 7 distinct numerals from which to create all the other Roman numerals:

I =1

V =5

X =10

L =50

C =100

D =500

M =1000

To create other numerals you will need to combine two or more of the seven. So, for example, number 2 is II, 3 is III, but 4 is IV. Why? because IIII (four of the same number together) becomes unmanageable. Four then is created by placing I in front of V and subtracting 1 from 5 which equals 4.

So far then we have numerals for our Arabic numbers 1-5. We continue simply adding I to V: VI = 6, VII = 7, VIII=8, but 9 is IX. For the same reason we didn’t use IIII for 4, nine is created by placing I in front of X and subtracting 1 from 10 to get 9 (IX).

Are we beginning to see a pattern here?

Numerals above X (10) are XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX and XX is 20.

Then XXX = 30, XXXI = 31 and so on.

XL = 40, XLI = 41 etc.

LX = 60, LXX = 70, LXXX = 80, XC = 90

Let’s try to create a number in Roman numerals. How about 1944. Let’s start from the left:

1000 = M

900 = CM

40 = XL

4 = IV

Put together the numeral is MCMXLIV.

Most of the time Roman numerals are used to express year dates, especially the date for the making of a movie or a television program. Roman numerals are also used on formal documents and papers, analog clocks, and on building cornerstones.

Click on the chart above for larger view.

Feel free to ask any questions via the comments. And I will answer you ASAP.

**My e-mail is on my profile page if I take a little too long in responding… I try not to. But feel free to use my e-mail to get a faster response.**


How Do I Read Roman Numerals?


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How to Read and Use Roman Numerals

The article teaches the reader how to read and write Roman Numerals.

Have you ever noticed at the end of a movie after the credits they has something that looks like this MCMLXXVIII. These seemingly meaningless letters are Roman Numerals. They are a simple combination of letters that represent the number 1978. The first 12 numbers are represented as follows: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII.  

The Basics: 

The use of “sticks” or later stick symbols was how people initially counted. That is why the first three numbers are I’s. Each “I” represents a stick. In the early Roman Empire the number four was represented as four sticks, side by side: IIII.

The V for 5 comes from the number of fingers in your hand. When the hand is outstretched with the thumb and pinky pointing opposite directions and the others folded, we have what almost looks like a V.

The X for ten was used when you have two hands crossing each other.

The system is simple to use… You keep adding smaller symbols side by side until you get to the next value in symbols then you replace all the smaller value symbols for the larger value symbol. For example:

I (one stick) = 1

II (two sticks) = 2

III (three sticks) = 3

IIII (four sticks) = 4

IIIII (five sticks replaced with V) = 5

IIIIII (six sticks we package the first five and replace them with V and write down the rest) VI = 6

IIIIIII (seven sticks… gives us VII) = 7 

This works for bigger values as well: 

X = 10

XX = 20

XXX = 30

The list of Roman Numbers is: 

I       1

V      5

X      10

L      50

C     100

D     500

M    1000

For Example: 

You want to write 15…     You would use the symbol for 10, X, and the symbol for 5, V, and get XV.

You want to write 101…   You would use the symbol for 100, C, and the symbol for 1, I, and get CI.

You want to write 2232… You would use the symbol for 1000, M, and write it twice; the symbol for 100, C, and write it twice; the symbol for 10, X, and write it three times; the symbol for 1, I, and write it two times. The result is MMCCXXXII. 

The subtraction principle: 

The next development in Roman Numerals came with the use of subtraction. To reduce the number of letters it was deemed that when a small symbol appears to the left of a larger number, then you subtract that value from the number on the right. 

For example: IIII, 4, became IV. The I, 1, subtracts from the V, 5, to give us IV or 4. The number nine would be written as IX (10 – 1= 9) instead of the lengthy version VIIII. 

For Example:

IV =     4 versus IIII

IX =     9 versus VIIII

IL =     49 versus XXXXVIIII

VL =   45 versus XXXXV

IC =    99 versus LXXXXVIIII

VC =   95 versus LXXXXV

XC =   90 versus LXXXX 

The key is to reduce the number of symbols. That is why VX (10 – 5) would not work for 5, V. There are more symbols in VX versus V for the value of 5. 

For example:  

1) 91 is found by taking 90, XC, and adding 1, I, to it. This gives us XCI.

2) 1996 is found by taking 1000, M, 995, VM (1000-5), and I, 1, and listing them all down… MVMI.

3) 3444 is found by taking 3 M’s, CD (500 – 100), XL (50 – 10), and IV (5 — 1). We have MMMCDXLIV. 

Using bars to represent larger numbers: 

To show 5000, they would take the symbol for 5, V, and add a bar across it. The bar acted as a place holder for larger digits.

Take for example a nasty number like this: 239,480,216 = To solve this take each group of three numbers separately. The number 239 becomes CC, for the 2, XXX, for the 3, IX, for the 9. That is CCXXXIX. The next grouping is 480 becomes, CD, for the 4, LXXX, for the 8. This gives us 480. (Note the zero is not needed since the bar over 480 tells us it is in the thousands place.) Lastly, 216 can be written as CC, for the 2, X, for the 10, and VI for the 6. 

With the use of seven symbols, the subtraction principle, and bars of their numbers, the Romans could write relatively large numbers. The weakness with the system was when one needed extremely large numbers. That is why the Roman system gave way to the current Arabic numbering system that we use today for most uses. The graph below lists a few key Roman Numbers less than 1000.

Today you will find Roman numbers are occasionally used. When you do, hopefully this article will help to interpret them easier.

Hope this Helps and Take care.

Roman Numerals Chart — Table of Equivalent Numbers

Roman numerals chart shows how letters are used in place of numbers. Numbers are formed by stringing numerals together to add up to the number required. Thankfully the Romans did not have a telephone system. Phone numbers perfectly illustrate a major weakness Roman numerals had compared to Arabic numbers such as the need to represent the number zero. Our list page matches arabic and Roman numbers together up to 2016.

Download and print a chart image for learning teaching and testing.

The Principles/Rules of Roman numerals

  1. Write numerals left to right, with the largest numeral first
  2. The largest numeral possible is used at each stage
  3. No more than three instances of same adjacent numeral. Occasionally number 4 is written not as IV but as IIII to add symmetry and balance to a watch or clock face
  4. A smaller numeral such as I or X placed before a larger one has the effect of minus — thus IV is one less then five, or four. This is called the subtraction principle and only one numeral can be placed to the left. The small numeral must be a power of ten: I, X or C; (1, 10 or 100)
Roman Numerals Chart
IOne1XTen10COne hundred100MOne thousand1000
IITwo2XXTwenty20CCTwo hundred200MMTwo thousand2000
IIIThree3XXXThirty30CCCThree hundred300M M MThree thousand3000
IVFour4XLForty40CDFour hundred400M M M MFour thousand4000
VFive5LFifty50DFive hundred500M M M M MFive thousand5000
VISix6LXSixty60DCSix hundred600etc
VIISeven7LXXSeventy70DCCSeven hundred700
VIIIEight8LXXXEighty80DCCCEight hundred800
IXNine9XCNinety90CMNine hundred900

Roman Numerals: Conversion, Meaning & Origins

The engraved marker for Entrance LII — 52 — is still visible at the Coliseum in Rome.

The engraved marker for Entrance LII — 52 — is still visible at the Coliseum in Rome.

Credit: WarpFlyght/Creative Commons

Roman numerals originated, as the name might suggest, in ancient Rome. There are seven basic symbols: I, V, X, L, C, D and M. The first usage of the symbols began showing up between 900 and 800 B.C.

The numerals developed out of a need for a common method of counting, essential to communications and trade. Counting on one’s fingers got out of hand, so to speak, when you reached 10. So, a counting system was devised based on a person’s hand.

Meaning of Roman numerals

A single line, or «I,» referred to one unit or finger; the «V» represented five fingers, specifically, the V-shape made by the thumb and forefinger. «X» equaled two hands. (See how an X could be two Vs touching at their points?)

Larger Roman numerals developed from other symbols.

M = 1,000 — Originally, the Greek letter phi — Φ — represented this value. It was sometimes represented as a C, I and backwards C, like this: CIƆ — which sort of looks like an M. It’s only a coincidence that mille is the Latin word for a thousand.

D = 500 — The symbol for this number was originally IƆ — half of CIƆ.

C = 100 — The original symbol was probably theta — Θ — and later became a C. It only coincidentally also stands for centum, the Latin word for a hundred.

L = 50 — This value was originally represented by a superimposed V and I, or by the letter psi — Ψ — which flattened out to look like an inverted T, and then eventually came to resemble an L.

How to read Roman numerals

Numbers are formed by combining various letters and finding the sum of those values. The numerals are placed from left to right, and the order of the numerals determines whether you add or subtract the values. If one or more letters are placed after a letter of greater value, you add. If a letter is placed before a letter of greater value, you subtract. For example, VI = 6 because V is higher than I. But IV = 4 because I is lower than V.

A medieval clock in Prague, Czech Republic, has Roman numerals on its face.

A medieval clock in Prague, Czech Republic, has Roman numerals on its face.

Credit: Michaela Stejskalova Shutterstock

There are a number of other rules related to Roman numerals. For example, do not use the same symbol more than three times in a row. When it comes to subtracting amounts, only powers of 10 are subtracted, like I, X, or C, but not V or L. For example, 95 is not VC. 95 is XCV. XC equals 100 minus 10, or 90, so XC plus V, or 90 plus 5, equals 95.

 Also, only one number can be subtracted from another. For example, 13 is not IIXV. It’s easy to see how the reasoning would be: 15 minus 1 minus 1. But following the rule, it instead is XIII, or 10 plus 3.

You also cannot subtract a number from one that is more than 10 times greater. You can subtract 1 from 10 (IX) but you cannot subtract 1 from 100; there is no such number as IC. You would instead write XCIX (XC + IX, or 90+9). For larger numbers in the thousands, a bar placed on top of the letter or string of letters multiplies the numeral’s value by 1,000: .

Disadvantages of using Roman numerals

Roman numerals are not without flaws. For example, there is no symbol for zero, and there is no way to calculate fractions. This hindered the ability to develop a universally understood, sophisticated math system, and made trading more difficult. Eventually, Roman numerals gave way to the more versatile Arabic or Hindu numeral system, where numbers are read as a single number in sequence, like 435 as four hundred thirty-five.

As the Roman Empire collapsed a thousand years later, Christianity (ironically one of Rome’s earliest targets for persecution), continued to use the culture’s number system.

Today, Roman numerals appear in building cornerstones and movie credits and titles. They are also used in names of monarchs, popes, ships and sporting events, like the Olympics and the Super Bowl.

Roman numerals are used in astronomy to designate moons and in chemistry to denote groups of the Periodic Table. They can be seen in tables of contents and in manuscript outlines, as upper- and lower-case Roman numerals break information into an easily organized structure. Music theory employs Roman numerals in notation symbols.

These uses are more due to aesthetic reasons than functional purposes. Cosmetically, Roman numerals convey a sense of history and timelessness, which is especially true in clocks and watches.


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