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Why is the Roman numeral four represented by IIII on a clock face instead of IV?

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2010-03-28 21:51:56
2010-03-28 21:51:56
Roman Numerals Variations and WhyIt's said, that in Roman times, they didn't use IV for 4, because IV are the first two letters of the name of their king of the gods, Iupiter (IVPITER, as it was written).

There are some clocks and sundials with 4 represented as IIII and some with IV.

This isn't just a clocks thing. Both methods of writing Roman numerals have been in use since the 1500s, possibly longer. Clock makers choose whichever number they feel is more aesthetically appealing and they often go with IIII because it balances better with VIII on the other side and makes the clock look more symmetrical. By the same token they use IX and not VIIII for 9 because it matches the III on the other side better.

Physicians traditionally use Roman numerals in lower case to specify the number of doses in a prescription. The lower case four(4) is usually written as iv, however, it can also be expressed as iiii - the explanation pharmacists often give, is they just count the dots on top - in other words, iiii instead of iv is for clarity. Perhaps more believable would be that it avoids confusion with the abbreviation "IV", which means intravenous, which could lead to a dangerous wrong drug administration route.

Strict Roman NumeralsRoman Numerals never put more than three of any numeral together in a number (at least not in a strict sense). So you would count I, II, III, and then by placing a smaller numeral in front of a larger one, you would subtract; IV is 1 taken from 5, and so on.

I 1

II 1+1

III 1+1+1

IV -1+5

V 5

VI 5+1

VII 5+1+1

VIII 5+1+1+1

IX -1+10

X 10

XI 10+1

XII 10+1+1

XIII 10+1+1+1

XIV 10-1+5

XV 10+5

XVI 10+5+1

XVII 10+5+1+1

XVIII 10+5+1+1+1

XIX 10-1+10

XX 10+10

...

Using above rules:

MCMLXIV 1000-100+1000+50+10-1+5 = 1964

Here is the Roman way of writing 1964:

MCMLXIV 1000+(1000-100)+(50+10)+(5-1) = 1964

M CM LX IV

As you can see, Romans had to be very good at adding and subtracting!

Not using above rules:

MDCCCCLXIIII 1000+500+100+100+100+100+50+10+1+1+1+1 1964

We can see how Roman Numerals get really long as the numbers get larger and by using four of a given numeral the numbers get even more long (which makes Roman Numerals less useful).

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Related Questions


The number 4 is most often represented as "IIII" on clock faces. It is thought that this to give a visual balance with VIII for 8 on the other side of the dial.


it was invented in rome in 1863


East on the Grandfather Clock would be the very right-most numeral. That being 3 or Roman numeral III.


The roman numeral for 4 was traditionally IIII and not IV because it is the first two letters of their king of the gods, Iupiter, which is written IVPITER. The Romans did not want to compare the king of the gods with something so small as 4.


It is not backwards when the hands of the clock points towards it.


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In Roman Numerals, 4 is represented as IV. Many, but not all, clock faces use IIII for 4. It is thought that this is because it provides a better visual balance to VIII for 8 on the other side of the clock face.


well 4 in roman numerals is IV, but if it is on a clock it is IIII, and 3 is III but there is no 0 in roman numerals, so it MIGHT be IV.-III. this is probably not correct, but it is as close as i can get.


Presumably you mean IIII and IV not 1111 and 1V? Both IIII and IV are correct Roman numerals representing 4. IV is a simplification of IIII. Traditionally IIII is used on clocks instead of IV. The ancient Romans used IIII for 4 because they were superstitious about IV, those being the first two letters of Jupiter's name.



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The answer is 34. You see in a clock with roman numerals, they write 4 as IIII or IV, but you can add one of them to XXX. And that is why 34 is equivalent to XXXIIII.


The Roman Numerals on a grandfather clock display IIII when they should display IV. The reason is that the original maker of the clock had incorrectly written the Roman Numerals.


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