Counting in Amharic
Amharic (አማርኛ, āmariññā) belongs to the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic languages. Official language of Ethiopia, it counts about 25.6 million speakers. It is written in the Amharic Fidel, or writing system, which is an evolution of the Ge’ez abugida. Amharic is also considered a holy language by the Rastafari religion.
Amharic numbers list
- 1 – አንድ (and)
- 2 – ሁለት (hulät)
- 3 – ሶስት (sost)
- 4 – አራት (arat)
- 5 – አምስት (amïst)
- 6 – ስድስት (sïdïst)
- 7 – ሰባት (säbat)
- 8 – ስምንት (sïmïnt)
- 9 – ዘጠኝ (zät’äñ)
- 10 – አስር (asïr)
- 11 – አስራ አንድ (asra and)
- 12 – አስራ ሁለት (asra hulät)
- 13 – አስራ ሶስት (asra sost)
- 14 – አስራ አራት (asra arat)
- 15 – አስራ አምስት (asra amïst)
- 16 – አስራ ስድስት (asra sïdïst)
- 17 – አስራ ሰባት (asra säbat)
- 18 – አስራ ስምንት (asra sïmïnt)
- 19 – አስራ ዘጠኝ (asra zät’äñ)
- 20 – ሃያ (haya)
- 30 – ሰላሳ (sälasa)
- 40 – አርባ (arba)
- 50 – ኃምሳ (hamsa)
- 60 – ስልሳ (sïlsa)
- 70 – ሰባ (säba)
- 80 – ሰማንያ (sämanya)
- 90 – ዘጠና (zät’äna)
- 100 – መቶ (mäto)
- 1,000 – ሺህ (ših)
- one million – አንድ ሚሊዮን (and miliyon)
The Ge’ez script is used for different languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea, mostly Ethiopian semitic languages (Ge’ez, Amharic, Tigrinya, Tigre, Harari, Sebat Bet Gurage…), but also Cushitic, like Bilen, or Sudanic, like Me’en. It has started as an abjad, in which only the consonants are written, in its case 26 consonantal letters, and was used to write the Ge’ez language until 330 A.D. It then evolved to an abugida, or an alphasyllabary, in which each glyph represents a consonant-vowel sequence. As the vowels are represented as diacritics in an irregular way, it can be viewed as a syllabary of 287 syllables.
Ge’ez script numerals
The Ge’ez numerals, which are actually used to write Amharic numbers (like Arabic or Hindu-Arabic numerals are used for English numerals), were formed either by borrowing the Coptic numerals, or by using Ge’ez letters and adding a top and a bottom signs to indicate they were numerals or not letters, which is how Coptic and Greek numerals were formed. There is no symbol for zero, but specific symbols for the units (1-9), the tens (10-90), one for hundred, and another one for ten thousand, wich is a combination of the symbol for hundred (as 10,000 is 100 multiplied by 100).
Amharic numbering rules
Now that you’ve had a gist of the most useful numbers, let’s move to the writing rules for the tens, the compound numbers, and why not the hundreds, the thousands and beyond (if possible).
- Digits from zero to nine are specific words, namely zero (ዜሮ) , and (አንድ) , hulät (ሁለት) , sost (ሶስት) , arat (አራት) , amïst (አምስት) , sïdïst (ስድስት) , säbat (ሰባት) , sïmïnt (ስምንት) , and zät’äñ (ዘጠኝ) .
- From eleven to nineteen, the numbers are formed starting with a form of the word for ten (asra, አስራ), followed by the unit name separated with a space: asra and (አስራ አንድ) , asra hulät (አስራ ሁለት) , asra sost (አስራ ሶስት) , asra arat (አስራ አራት) , asra amïst (አስራ አምስት) , asra sïdïst (አስራ ስድስት) , asra säbat (አስራ ሰባት) , asra sïmïnt (አስራ ስምንት) , and asra zät’äñ (አስራ ዘጠኝ) .
- Even if the tens are not formed in a regular way, we can still get a gist of the multiplier digit behind their name: asïr (አስር) , haya (ሃያ) , sälasa (ሰላሳ) , arba (አርባ) , hamsa (ኃምሳ) , sïlsa (ስልሳ) , säba (ሰባ) , sämanya (ሰማንያ) , and zät’äna (ዘጠና) .
- The compound numbers above twenty-one are formed starting with the ten, followed by the unit name separated with a space (e.g.: hamsa arat (ኃምሳ አራት) , säba sïmïnt (ሰባ ስምንት) ).
- Hundreds are formed by stating the multiplier digit before the word for hundred (mäto, መቶ) separated with a space, except for one hundred where it is optional: (and) mäto ((አንድ) መቶ) , hulät mäto (ሁለት መቶ) , sost mäto (ሶስት መቶ) , arat mäto (አራት መቶ) , amïst mäto (አምስት መቶ) , sïdïst mäto (ስድስት መቶ) , säbat mäto (ሰባት መቶ) , sïmïnt mäto (ስምንት መቶ) , and zät’äñ mäto (ዘጠኝ መቶ) .
- Thousands are formed by stating the multiplier digit before the word for thousand (ših, ሺህ) separated with a space, except for one thousand where it is optional: (and) ših ((አንድ) ሺህ) [1,000] (the form ši (ሺ) can also be encountered), hulät ših (ሁለት ሺህ) [2,000], sost ših (ሶስት ሺህ) [3,000], arat ših (አራት ሺህ) [4,000], amïst ših (አምስት ሺህ) [5,000], sïdïst ših (ስድስት ሺህ) [6,000], säbat ših (ሰባት ሺህ) [7,000], sïmïnt ših (ስምንት ሺህ) [8,000], and zät’äñ ših (ዘጠኝ ሺህ) [9,000].
- The word for million is miliyon (ሚሊዮን).
Write a number in full in Amharic
Let’s move now to the practice of the numbering rules in Amharic. Will you guess how to write a number in full? Enter a number and try to write it down in your head, or maybe on a piece of paper, before displaying the result.
Introducing Amharic: An Interactive Workbook
by T. Michael W. Halcomb, editors GlossaHouse (2016)
The Essential Guide to Amharic: The National Language of Ethiopia
by Abraham Teklu & Andrew Tadross, editors Peace Corps Writers (2015)
Basic Amharic: a teaching manual
by Kebede Gessesse, editors CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2012)
Amharic Writing Practice Workbook
by Lion Of Judah Society, editors CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2012)
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