Counting in Yao

Language overview

Forty-two in Yao The Yao language (chiYao), or ciYao, is a Bantu language that belongs to the Niger–Congo language family. Spoken in Malawi (where its main dialect is Mangochi), Tanzania and Mozambique (where its main dialects are Makale and Massaninga), the Yao language counts about 3.1 million speakers.

Due to lack of data, we can only count accurately up to 1,000 in Yao. Please contact me if you can help me counting up from that limit.

Yao numbers list

  • 1 – cimo
  • 2 – iwili
  • 3 – itatu
  • 4 – ncece
  • 5 – nsano
  • 6 – nsano nacimo
  • 7 – nsano nawili
  • 8 – nsano naitatu
  • 9 – nsano nancece
  • 10 – likumi
  • 11 – likumi kwisa cimo
  • 12 – likumi kwisa iwili
  • 13 – likumi kwisa itatu
  • 14 – likumi kwisa ncece
  • 15 – likumi kwisa nsano
  • 16 – likumi kwisa nsano nacimo
  • 17 – likumi kwisa nsano naiwili
  • 18 – likumi kwisa nsano naitatu
  • 19 – likumi kwisa nsano nancece
  • 20 – makumi gawili
  • 30 – makumi gatatu
  • 40 – makumi ncece
  • 50 – makumi nsano
  • 60 – makumi nsano nalimo
  • 70 – makumi nsano nagawili
  • 80 – makumi nsano nagatatu
  • 90 – makumi nsano nancece
  • 100 – licila
  • 1,000 – macila likumi

Yao 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 one to five are rendered by specific words, then Yao follows a quinary numbering system where digits from six to nine are based on five: cimo [1], iwili [2], itatu [3], ncece [4], nsano [5], nsano nacimo [6] (5+1), nsano nawili [7] (5+2) (nsano naiwili when compound), nsano naitatu [8] (5+3), and nsano nancece [9] (5+4).
  • Tens are formed starting with the plural form of the word for ten (likumi in singular, and makumi in plural) and the multiplier digit root with the prefix ga- from twenty to fifty, the consonant change -ci- to -li- for sixty, the infix -ga- for seventy and eighty, and another infix change for ninety, ten being left in its singular fom, with no multiplier: likumi [10], makumi gawili [20], makumi gatatu [30], makumi ncece [40], makumi nsano [50], makumi nsano nalimo [60], makumi nsano nagawili [70], makumi nsano nagatatu [80], and makumi nsano nancece [90].
  • Compound numbers are formed starting with the ten, followed by the word kwisa, and the unit (e.g.: likumi kwisa nsano [15], makumi gawili kwisa nsano naitatu [28]).
  • Hundreds are formed starting with the plural form of the word for hundred (licila in singular, and macila in plural) and the multiplier digit root with the prefix ga- for two hundred and three hundred, an additive pattern from six hundred to eight hundred (even if an infixed form can coexist sometimes), and an infix change for nine hundred, the number one hundred being left in its singular fom, with no multiplier: licila [100], macila gawili [200], macila gatatu [300], macila ncece [400], macila nsano [500], macila nsano kwisa cimo [600], macila nsano kwisa gawili (or macila nsano nagawili) [700], macila nsano kwisa gatatu (or macila nsano nagatatu) [800], and macila nsano nancece [900].
  • One thousand is macila likumi [1,000], or litterally ten hundreds.

Write a number in full in Yao

Let’s move now to the practice of the numbering rules in Yao. 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 Numeração em Moçambique A Numeração em Moçambique
by , editors (2008)


  • A Numeração em Moçambique, by Paulus Gerdes (in Portuguese)

Bantu languages

Gwere, Kinyarwanda, Lingala, Makhuwa, Mwani, Nyungwe, Punu, Shona, Soga, Swahili, Tsonga, Tswana, Xhosa, Yao, and Zulu.

Other supported languages

As the other currently supported languages are too numerous to list extensively here, please select a language from the full list of supported languages.