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Tengwar Numerals

Symbology and usage:

Along with a series of alphabetical symbols, a set of numerical symbols were sometimes also used. Normally Tengwar letters 1 thru 36 were used to represent numbers 1 thru 36. To distinguish these from regular letters, a dot or a bar could be placed above the symbol. This was most commonly used when identifying items on a list. For Example:

Also a more sophisticated numbering system was developed. Unique symbols were used to represent a decimal numbering system (Base-10, numbers 0 thru 9). Here they are listed along with their Quenya name:

To avoid confusion with other Tengwar letters, strings of decimal numbers were also marked with over-bars or over-dots.

While our modern numbering system places the least significant value on the right and the most significant value on the left, the Tengwar number system places the least significant value on the left and the most significant value on the right. This makes Tengwar numbers appear to be backwards. So using the decimal numbering system; the number 1995 could be written:

First, the number is written in the standard, normal manner. Then the order of the numbers are reversed. Third, Tengwar numerals are substituted for the modern, standard ones. Finally, over-dots (or over-bars) are added to identify it as an Base-10 numerical string.

Some cultures adapted the decimal numbering system to make a duodecimal numbering system (Base-12, numbers 0 thru 11) by adding two more symbols. Here they are listed along with their Quenya name:

Also to avoid confusion with other Tengwar letters, strings of duodecimal numbers were marked with under-bars or under-dots. Like the decimal number system, the duodecimal number system places the least significant value on the left and the most significant value on the right. A small under-circle was sometimes used (in place of the under-bar or under-dot) to identify the least significant digit. So using the duodecimal numbering system; the number 1995 could be written:

First, the number is written in the standard, decimal mode. Then it is written in the duodecimal mode. Third, the order of the numbers are reversed. Fourth, Tengwar numerals are substituted for the modern, standard ones. Finally, under-dots (or over-bars), and the least significant digit marker are added to identify it as an duodecimal numerical string.

Source:

"The Writing Systems of Middle-earth" by David Doughan and Julian Bradfield
Quettar Special Publication No. 1 (1987)
(The bulletin of the linguistic group of the Tolkien Society)


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Last updated: November 2, 1999
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