Ordinal indicator: Wikis


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In written languages, an ordinal indicator is a sign adjacent to a numeral denoting that it is an ordinal number, rather than a cardinal number. The exact sign used varies in different languages.





The suffixes -st (e.g. 21st), -nd or -d (e.g. 22nd or 22d), -rd or -d (e.g. 23rd or 23d), and -th (e.g. 24th) are used. In the Victorian period these indicators were superscripts (2nd, 34th) under general French influence especially on British English, but by the late 20th century formatting them on the line was favored. Since the 1990s the superscript style has been revived somewhat because some word processors format ordinal indicators as superscripts as the default setting.


The suffixes -er (e.g. 1er — premier), -re (e.g. 1re — première), and -e (e.g. 2edeuxième). These indicators use superscript formatting whenever it is available. Alternatively, the suffix -ème is used in place of -e (e.g. 2èmedeuxième).

The suffix º is used for terms like primo, secundo, tertio as 1º, 2º, 3º


Unlike other Germanic languages, Dutch is similar to English in this respect: the French layout with -e used to be popular, but the recent spelling changes now prescribe the suffix -e. Optionally -ste and -de may be used, but this is more complex and nowadays less used: 1ste (eerste), 2de (tweede), 4de (vierde), 20ste (twintigste), etc.

Croatian, Czech, Danish, Estonian, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Latvian, Norwegian, Polish, Slovak, Slovene, Serbian, Turkish

A period or full stop is written after the numeral. The same usage, apparently borrowed from German, is now a standard in Polish, where it replaced the superscript of the last phoneme (following complex declension and gender patterns, e.g., 1-szy, 7-ma, 24-te, 100-ny; use of such contractions is considered an error; probably it's a calque from Russian, see below).

Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish

The suffixes -o and -a are appended to the numeral depending on whether the number's grammatical gender is masculine or feminine respectively. As with French, these signs are preferably superscripted, but in contrast, they are often underlined as well. Some character sets provide characters specifically for use as ordinal indicators in these languages: º and ª (in Unicode U+00BA and U+00AA[1]). The masculine ordinal indicator U+00BA (º) is often confused with the degree sign U+00B0 (°), which looks very similar in many fonts. The degree sign is a uniform circle and is never underlined, while the letter o may be oval or elliptical and have a varying stroke width. The letter o may also be underlined.

In Spanish, it is also possible and customary to use the two final letters of the word as it is spelt, usually underlined and superscripted. For instance, 2do for "segundo". This practice is usually optional, but it is required in the cases of primer (an apocope of primero) before singular masculine nouns, which is not abbreviated as but as 1er. And the same happens with tercer (an apocope of tercero) before singular masculine nouns, which is not abbreviated as but as 3er. With compound ordinals ending in "primer" or "tercer", the same applies. For instance, "twenty-first" would be vigésimo primer before a masculine noun. And its abbreviation would be 21er.

Since none of these words should be shortened before feminine nouns, their correct forms for those cases are primera and tercera. These can be represented either as 1ª and 3ª, or as 1ra and 3ra.


The suffix is appended to all numerals, 1ú, 2ú, 3ú 4ú etc., even though the written form does not simply attach the suffix to all numbers, i.e.

  • a haon - chéad - 1ú
  • a dó - dara - 2ú
  • a trí - tríú - 3ú
  • a ceathair - ceathrú - 4ú
  • a cúig - cúigiú - 5ú

It is planned to remove this inaccurate suffix, i.e. 1ú Samhain (1 November) will become simply 1 Samhain.


The rule is to follow the number with the last letter in the singular and the last two letters in the plural.[2] Most numbers follow the pattern exemplified by vint "20" (20è m sg, 20a f sg, 20ns m pl, 20es f pl), but the first few ordinals are irregular, affecting the abbreviations of the masculine forms. Superscripting is nonstandard.


One or two letters of the spelled-out numeral are appended to it (either after a hyphen or, rarely, in superscript). The rule is to take the minimal number of letters that include at least one consonant phoneme. Examples: 2-му второму [ftɐromu], 2-я вторая [ftɐraja] , 2-й второй [ftɐroj] (note that in the second example the vowel letter я represents two phonemes, one of which ([j]) is consonant).


The general rule for non inflected forms is to append a period (6.), although :s may be used for clarity (6:s), for example at the end of a sentence. For inflected forms, the ordinal indicator morpheme (typically -nne-) and any trailing inflection are appended after a colon (6:nnessa), although a period may be used if the following word indicates the inflection (6. kerroksessa).


The general rule is that :a (for 1 and 2) or :e (for all other numbers, except 101:a, 42:a, et cetera) is appended to the numeral. When indicating dates, suffixes are never used. Examples: "1:a klass" (first (i.e. business) class), "3:e utgåvan" (third edition), but "6 november". Furthermore, suffixes can be left out if the number obviously is an ordinal number, example: "3 utg." (3rd ed). Using a full stop as an ordinal indicator is considered archaic, but still occurs in military contexts. Example: "5. komp" (5th company).

Similar conventions

Some languages use superior letters as a typographic convention for abbreviations that aren't related to ordinal numbers — the letters o and a may be among those used, but they don't indicate ordinals:

Spanish uses the indicator letters in some abbreviations, such as Vº Bº for visto bueno ("approved"); and for Maria, a Spanish name frequently used in compounds like José Mª.
In Portuguese, the underlined "º" and "ª" are used with many abbreviations, and should be preceded by a period. In fact, there is no limit for which words may be abbreviated this way. Sometimes, other letters are also written before the "º" or "ª". For example: Ex.mo for Excelentíssimo (a very formal prefix to the name), L.da for Limitada (Ltd.), Sr.a for Senhora (Ms.), etc.
English has borrowed the "No." abbreviation from the Romance languages word numero (according to the OED[1], the term is from the Latin numero, which is the ablative form of the word numerus ("number"). Similar forms exist as the word for "number" is derived in other Romance languages: numero in Italian, numéro in French, and número in Spanish and Portuguese), applying it as an abbreviation for the English word "number". This is sometimes written as "Nº", with the superscript o optionally underlined; see numero sign.

Use of the ordinal-indicating Unicode characters for these kinds of abbreviations is a matter of preference, but can be misleading; the "º" in "Nº", for example, is not intended to indicate ordinality at all.

See also


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