Counting in Tetun Dili

Language overview

Forty-two in Tetun Dili Tetun Dili, also known as Tetun Prasa, Tetun Praça, or improperly as Tetun, is a Tetun-based creole, Tetun being an Austronesian language of the Malayo-Polynesian group. It is spoken by about 50,000 speakers in East Timor’s capital city Dili and in its surroundings, in the north of the country, where the two official languages are Tetun and Portuguese. Strongly influenced by Portuguese, it is also influenced by Mambae, with some Indonesian and Malay loans.
We present on this page the numbers names based on Portuguese.

Tetun Dili numbers list

  • 1 – ún
  • 2 – dois
  • 3 – trés
  • 4 – kuatru
  • 5 – sinku
  • 6 – seis
  • 7 – seti
  • 8 – oitu
  • 9 – novi
  • 10 – dés
  • 11 – onzi
  • 12 – dozi
  • 13 – trezi
  • 14 – katorzi
  • 15 – kizi
  • 16 – dezaseis
  • 17 – dezaseti
  • 18 – dezoitu
  • 19 – dezanovi
  • 20 – vinti
  • 30 – trenta
  • 40 – kuarenta
  • 50 – sinkuenta
  • 60 – sesenta
  • 70 – setenta
  • 80 – oitenta
  • 90 – noventa
  • 100 – sein
  • 1,000 – míl
  • one million – un milyaun
  • one billion – un bilyaun

Three numerals influences cohabiting in a creole language

Tetun Dili being a creole, it is influenced by different languages, and it shows well in the way its numerals are formed. Three numeral influences are used in parallel depending on the situation, which are based on either Portuguese, Indonesian or Tetun language. In her book Tetun Dili: A Grammar of an East Timorese Language, Catharina Williams-van Klinken states that “Tetun numerals tend to be used only for small numbers, such as for the number of children in a family, one’s age, or the time. Dates, prices and arithmetic are much more often given in Portuguese or Indonesian than in Tetun, while time is commonly specified in any of these three languages.”

Tetun Dili 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 and numbers from zero to fifteen are specific words, namely zero [0], ún [1], dois [2], trés [3], kuatru [4], sinku [5], seis [6], seti [7], oitu [8], novi [9], dés [10], onzi [11], dozi [12], trezi [13], katorzi [14], and kizi [15]. Sixteen to nineteen are regular numbers, i.e. named after the ten and the digit, and written phonetically: dezaseis [10 and 6], dezaseti [10 and 7], dezoitu [10 and 8], dezanovi [10 and 9].
  • The tens have specific names based on the digits roots except for ten and twenty: dés [10], vinti [20], trenta [30], kuarenta [40], sinkuenta [50], sesenta [60], setenta [70], oitenta [80], and noventa [90].
  • The same applies to the hundreds: sein [100] (plural sentus), duzentus [200], trezentus [300], kuatrusentus [400], kinyentus [500], seisentus [600], setisentus [700], oitusentus [800], and novisentus [900].
  • Tens and units are linked with i (and), as in oitenta i trés [83], as well as hundreds and tens (e.g.: sentu i vinti [120]), but not hundreds and compound tens above twenty (e.g.: novisentus setenta i sinku [975]), nor thousands and hundreds, unless the number ends with a hundred with two zeroes (e.g.: dois míl i trezentus [2,300], but míl novisentus noventa i novi [1,999]). The conjonction i is also used to link thousands and units (e.g.: dois míl i trés [2,003]).
  • Millions are formed by stating the multiplier digit before the word for million (milyaun, plural milyoens), separated with a space: un milyaun (and not ún milyaun) [1 million], dois milyoens [2 million], trés milyoens [3 million], kuatru milyoens [4 million]…
  • Billions are formed the same way as millions, i.e. by stating the multiplier digit before the word for billion (bilyaun, plural bilyoens), separated with a space: un bilyaun (and not ún bilyaun) [1 billion], dois bilyoens [2 billion], trés bilyoens [3 billion], kuatru bilyoens [4 billion]… Thus, the Tetun Dili language uses the short scale system where every new word greater than a million is one thousand times bigger than the previous term (milyaun, bilyaun), which is similar to Brazilian Portuguese.

Write a number in full in Tetun Dili

Let’s move now to the practice of the numbering rules in Tetun Dili. 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.


A Short Grammar of Tetun Dili A Short Grammar of Tetun Dili
by , editors Lincom Europa (2002)


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