Have you ever been left scratching your head after seeing a string of Roman numerals? Maybe you have a vague memory of a certain “letter” translating to a certain digit, but it’s all buried in the back of your brain with the rest of your less-used elementary school knowledge (like how to write in cursive, for example). While you may not use this ancient numeric system in your everyday life, the numerals do pop up more often than you think.
When you come across Roman numerals, you don’t have to reteach yourself how to read them. Instead, you can plug them into an online Roman numerals converter to quickly see the corresponding number in Arabic numerals, which is our common way of writing digits.
Here are a few situations when you might see some Roman numerals and need to understand what they mean:
1) Roman Numerals While Traveling
A big part of traveling is soaking up the history of a place by checking out local old buildings and sites. If you happen to be traveling in Europe, some of these historic locations are prime spots for coming across Roman numerals. Oftentimes, they appear on the facades or cornerstones of buildings to mark the year of their construction. You may also see them along with an important figure’s name, such as “King Henry VII” or “Pope Pius IX.” When you know how to read Roman numerals, you’ll be able to better situate the place or person you’re learning about in time.
2) Roman Numerals in Sporting Events
Some sporting events still hold on to Roman numerals as a way to track what number game or games it is. And, these aren’t small-time events either; we’re talking the big leagues like the Olympics and the Super Bowl! For example, the last summer Olympics in Brazil was officially known as the Games of the XXI Olympiad and the most recent Super Bowl was called Super Bowl LII.
3) Roman Numerals on a Watch or Clock
Plenty of watches and clocks – whether digital or analog – use Arabic numbers, but those with Roman numerals are still very much in fashion. While it’s a matter of personal preference, a clock face with Roman numerals can offer a more classic look or serve as more of a decorative piece. Understanding Roman numerals is in your favor if you still want to be able to read time, no matter the clock you come across!
4) Roman Numerals as a Tattoo
Roman numerals have become a popular choice for tattoos as an attractive way to commemorate an important date. The possibilities are endless when it comes to what date someone might want to remember with a Roman numeral tattoo, but an anniversary, child’s birthday, and date of a loved one’s death are some common examples. With their unique appearance, Roman numeral tattoo designs look attractive in many spots on the body, including along the collarbone, down the back of the neck, across the forearm, or on the wrist.
If you’re thinking of what to get for your next tattoo, you may want to consider taking a special date and converting it to Roman numerals!
5) Roman Numerals in Academics
Academic writing routinely uses Roman numerals to denote supplementary pages and separate them from the primary text, which uses standard numbering like page 1, 2, 3, etc. If you’re flipping through a book’s copyright, preface, introduction, endnotes, bibliography, or index, then chances are you’ll see those pages numbered with Roman numerals. The headings in a book’s table of contents as well as its chapter or section titles may also use them for labeling.
Whether you’re referencing an academic text or you’re writing your own, it’s a good idea to understand Roman numerals so you can accurately organize your work and easily find the material you’re looking for.
6) Roman Numerals in Films
Books aren’t the only type of media that utilize Roman numerals. You may have noticed that many films choose to write their copyright date with this numeric system. Some argue that this is done to make it more difficult for viewers to tell how old a movie actually is. As in, they don’t want to make it seem too dated. Others say it’s because Roman numerals are in line with copyright laws. Yet another hypothesis is that it’s simply because that’s the way it’s always been done!
Whatever the case may be, you’ll be able to know exactly the date you’re looking at when you can convert those Roman numerals.
Roman numerals may come from ancient times, but you can still find them around today in a variety of situations, including on historic sites and with sporting events. With a Roman numerals converter, you don’t have to be left wondering what number is being referred to. Simply plug in the Roman numerals you see to get the equivalent Arabic numerals you can understand!
Cindy is a freelance writer and editor with previous experience in marketing as well as book publishing. Along with her content writing for a diverse portfolio of clients, Cindy’s work has been featured in Thrillist, The Points Guy, Forbes, and more.