The system of Armenian numerals is a historic numeral system created using the majuscules (uppercase letters) of the Armenian alphabet. However, it was not limited to the use of only capitals. The system was invented in the 4th century, long before the Hindu system swept across the area, in response to the inefficiency of the Persian and Greek (Herodianic) systems before it.
There was no notation for zero in the old system, and the numeric values for individual letters were added together. The principles behind this system are the same as for the Ancient Greek numerals and Hebrew numerals. In modern Armenia, the familiar Arabic numerals are used. Armenian numerals are used more or less like the Roman numerals in modern English, e.g. Գարեգին Բ. means Garegin II and Գ. Գլուխ means Chapter III (as a headline).
The system used the first 9 letters as units, the 2nd 9 letters as tens, the 3rd 9 letters as hundreds and the 4th 9 letters as thousands.
The final two letters of the Armenian alphabet, “o” (Օ) and “fe” (Ֆ) were added to the Armenian alphabet only after Arabic numerals were already in use, to facilitate transliteration of other languages. Thus, they do not have a numerical value assigned to them.
Numbers in the Armenian numeral system are obtained by simple addition. Armenian numerals are written left-to-right (as in the Armenian language). Although the order of the numerals is irrelevant since only addition is performed, the convention is to write them in decreasing order of value.
Examples of this algorithm:
- ՌՋՀԵ = 1975 = 1000 + 900 + 70 + 5
- ՍՄԻԲ = 2222 = 2000 + 200 + 20 + 2
- ՍԴ = 2004 = 2000 + 4
- ՃԻ = 120 = 100 + 20
- Ծ = 50
For numbers greater than 9000, a line is drawn over a corresponding letter, multiplying it by 10,000; i.e., 10,000 would be Ա with a line over it, 20,000 would be Բ with a line over it, etc.
Romans repeated symbols for the purpose of addition only and this was done quite generally, for XX means 10+10, MM means 1000+1000, etc. However, the Armenian version repeated the letters very rarely and when it did, it was for the purpose of multiplication only, for ՌՌ means 1000 x 1000, ՄՌՌ =200 x 1000 x 1000, etc. While ՏՇՀԳ =4000+500+70+3=4573.