In this post, discover more about numbers in Amharic. Did you know that you can use two different sets of numbers in Amharic? How about the fact that in the Ge’ez script, there’s only one numeral to represent the 100s? Learn more by giving it a read!
Two types of numbers
So, the two types of numbers actually refer to the two different ways to write numbers in Amharic – and most languages!
First of all, how do you write numbers in English? Most of the time, you probably use the numerals – 1, 2, 3, etc. It’s not very often you’d write ‘one’, ‘two’, ‘three’.
That isn’t any different in Amharic!
We’re going to start by showing you the numbers written out in fidäl, which is what speakers of Amharic and Tigrinya call the Ge’ez, or Ethiopic, script. This is like writing out the full number – ‘four’, ‘five’, ‘six’, etc.
Like the Latin script, Ge’ez is written left to right and has been used since about the first century CE. It was originally used to write the Ge’ez language, but nowadays it is used for several Afro-Asiatic and Nilo-Saharan languages spoken in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The Ge’ez language, on the other hand, is ancient and now is only really used for religious reasons by organisations like the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church or the Ethiopian Catholic Church.
After looking at the numbers written out in fidäl, we’re going to take a look at the Ge’ez numerals, which would be the equivalent of our 1, 2, 3…
Let’s go ahead and dive in!
The numbers 0 – 10
These numbers all descend from Proto-Semitic, as Amharic is a Semitic language. They are all cognates of (related to) Arabic numbers, which makes sense, as Arabic is also a Semitic language. In fact, after Arabic, Amharic is the second most spoken Semitic language in the world!
The numbers 11 – 20
|11||አስራ አንድ||Asra and|
|12||አስራ ሁለት||Asra hulet|
|13||አስራ ሦስት||Asra sost|
|14||አስራ አራት||Asra arat|
|15||አስራ አምስት||Asra amist|
|16||አስራ ስድስት||Asra sidist|
|17||አስራ ሰባት||Asra sebat|
|18||አስራ ስምንት||Asra simint|
|19||አስራ ዘጠኝ||Asra zetegn|
As you can see from these tables, the numbers 11-19 are related to the numbers one to nine, with just a slight change in the pronunciation of 10 when the other numbers follow it.
The Ge’ez numerals
|Latin Numeral||Ge’ez Numeral|
The Ge’ez numerals share some similarities with the Ge’ez letters, but what is most striking is their similarity to Ancient Greek numerals. That’s because they were borrowed from Greek! It is likely that this was via Coptic uncial letters, which was the first alphabetic script used for writing the Egyptian language.
(The Copts are a Christian ethnoreligious group indigenous to North Africa, particularly Egypt, which has historical religious links to Ethiopia and other countries.)
Ge’ez has individual characters for multiples of 10 (e.g. 20 = ፳; 30 = ፴ etc.), but only one numeral for multiples of 100 (፻). This means a number like 475 breaks down as 4-100-70-5 (፬፻፸፭). Interestingly, there is no numeral for zero in the Ge’ez script because the concept of zero never existed in the Ge’ez language!
If you’re planning to visit Ethiopia, then keep your eyes peeled for the different types of numbers you might see there. Nowadays, you’re likely to see some Latin numerals there too!
We hope you’ve had fun learning some Amharic numbers with us today. Learn even more on the uTalk app – we’ve got numbers all the way up to 10 million.
Happy language learning!