What is the Difference Between Uppercase and Lowercase Roman Numerals?

Roman numerals one through ten.

Roman numerals have been used for thousands of years, and while they are not used as the primary way to represent numerals today, they are still ever-present in our daily lives. From the Super Bowl and Olympics, to fancy clocks and page numbers, knowing what Roman numerals represent—and, how to use them—is a good skill to possess. 

What is the Difference Between Uppercase and Lowercase Roman Numerals? 

Typically, Roman numerals are used in their uppercase form. When the numerals are written in the lowercase form, their usually on page numbers or for when creating a bulleted list. 

When Are Uppercase Roman Numerals Used?

In most circumstances, Roman numerals are capitalized. This is due to the Romans only having one form of the letter or number, rather than the upper and lowercase form. The uppercase letters that are used to represent numbers come from the Latin alphabet. During Roman times there were only two forms of written letters and numerals—uppercase and script. There was no lowercase version of any of the symbols of the Latin alphabet. 

Whether the Roman numerals are capitalized or not, their value remains the same. For example:

  • 28 in Roman numerals is XXVIII and xxviii
  • 36 in Roman numerals is XXXVI or xxxvi
  • 87 in Roman numerals is LXXXVII or lxxxvii
  • 112 in Roman numerals is CXII or cxii

When Are Lowercase Roman Numerals Used?

As mentioned above, there are some places where lowercase Roman numerals are more likely to be seen. It is common to see the use of lowercase Roman numerals when creating numbered bullet points on documents or other list-type formats. 

What Are Roman Numerals?

Roman numerals is a written numerical system first used by the Romans around 500 B.C. and the system was used as the primary way to represent numbers in Europe up until the middle ages.   

Roman numerals compared to the decimal positional numeral system, are as follows:

  • 1 – I
  • 2 – II
  • 3 – III
  • 4 – IV
  • 5 – V
  • 6 – VI
  • 7 – VII
  • 8 – VIII
  • 9 – IX
  • 10 – X 
  • 20 – XX
  • 50 – L
  • 100 – C
  • 500 – D
  • 1000 – M 

During the Roman times, Roman numerals were used in every aspect of life, just like how we use our numbering system today. From trade to mathematical equations to architectural plans. Roman numerals began to fall out of favor when trade increased and the need for completing more complicated mathematical equations. 

A clock on a building with the numbers 1-12 in Roman numerals.

How Roman Numerals Are Used Today

As we know, Roman numerals are still used today. Though we do not use them when completing mathematical problems, it is good to have a grasp on Roman numerals, whether you are traveling and curious about the numbers you are seeing, or want to know what time is being shown on a clock, there are some helpful tips to remembering this numbering system:

The Hand Signal Theory

The hand signal theory is a great way to remember Roman numerals one through ten. This theory suggests that the Roman numerals represent the hand signals that are used for counting. 

1 through 3 are easy to see when holding up your fingers. One finger up looks like I. Two fingers, II. Three fingers, III. The V that represents the number five would be the shape that is seen between the thumb and the index finger when your hand is open. Numbers 6 (VI), 7 (VII), and 8 (VIII) are all one hand open showing five (V) and the other hand representing the rest of the number. Ten (X) is both hands open with the thumbs crossing making a X. 

Roman Numerals Rhyming Trick

There are a few different mnemonic devices to help you remember the order of Roman numerals. 

  • I Value Xylophones Like Cows Do Milk
    • The bold letters are the Roman numerals in ascending order
  • My Dear Cat Loves Xtra Vitamins Intensely 
    • The bold letters are the Roman numerals in descending order 

Modern Numbering System vs. Roman Numerals

Today, we see Roman numerals are still used, but we are more likely to see them in certain places or on certain products. The numbering system that we use today is the Hindu-Arabic number system. It is also commonly referred to as Arabic numerals because it was introduced to Europeans by Arab tradespeople. 

Hindu-Arabic Number System

The Hindu-Arabic are the numerals 0 through 9 that are used throughout most of the world. First invented in India in the fifth century. This numbering system spread west and was slowly adopted by Europe and became the preferred number system by the thirteenth century. 

When an economic boom hit Europe in the eleventh century, merchants and tradespeople were calculating larger sums and found that Hindu-Arabic numerals were easier to use than Roman numerals. This numbering system lended itself better to completing calculations and also made it so that there was no need for counting tools like the abacus. 

Know Your Roman Numerals 

Knowing Roman numerals 1 to 100 is a helpful skill—but it can be tricky. So try using our Roman Numerals Converter to make sure that you are correct. 

This entry was posted in Education, Mathematics and tagged . By Emily DiFabio