Ordinal indicator

Ordinal indicator
º redirects here. It is not to be confused with the degree symbol °.

Ordinal indicator
apostrophe ( ’ ' )
brackets ( [ ], ( ), { }, ⟨ ⟩ )
colon ( : )
comma ( , )
dash ( , –, —, ― )
ellipsis ( …, ..., . . . )
exclamation mark ( ! )
full stop/period ( . )
guillemets ( « » )
hyphen ( )
hyphen-minus ( - )
question mark ( ? )
quotation marks ( ‘ ’, “ ”, ' ', " " )
semicolon ( ; )
slash/stroke ( / )
solidus ( )
Word dividers
space ( ) ( ) ( ) (␠) (␢) (␣)
interpunct ( · )
General typography
ampersand ( & )
at sign ( @ )
asterisk ( * )
backslash ( \ )
bullet ( )
caret ( ^ )
copyright symbol ( © )
dagger ( †, ‡ )
degree ( ° )
ditto mark ( )
inverted exclamation mark ( ¡ )
inverted question mark ( ¿ )
number sign/pound/hash ( # )
numero sign ( )
obelus ( ÷ )
ordinal indicator ( º, ª )
percent etc. ( %, ‰, )
pilcrow ( )
prime ( ′, ″, ‴ )
registered trademark ( ® )
section sign ( § )
service mark ( )
sound recording copyright ( )
tilde ( ~ )
trademark ( )
underscore/understrike ( _ )
vertical/broken bar, pipe ( ¦, | )
currency (generic) ( ¤ )
currency (specific)
( ฿ ¢ $ ƒ £ ¥ )
Uncommon typography
asterism ( )
tee ( )
up tack ( )
index/fist ( )
therefore sign ( )
because sign ( )
interrobang ( )
irony & sarcasm punctuation ( )
lozenge ( )
reference mark ( )
tie ( )
diacritical marks
whitespace characters
non-English quotation style ( « », „ ” )
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In written languages, an ordinal indicator is a sign adjacent to a numeral denoting that it is an ordinal number, rather than a cardinal number. The exact sign used varies in different languages.




The suffixes -st (e.g. 21st), -nd (e.g. 22nd), -rd (e.g. 23rd), and -th (e.g. 24th) are used. In the Victorian period, these indicators were superscripts (2nd, 34th) under general French influence especially in British English. During most of the 20th century, formatting them on the baseline was favored. For example, the 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style states: "The letters in ordinal numbers should not appear as superscripts (e.g., 122nd not 122nd)." The usual explanation for this rule is that superscript suffixes in small type are hard to read and spoil the appearance of the page.[citation needed] Since the 1990s, the superscript style has come to dominate casual writing, because some word processors format ordinal indicators as superscripts by default.[citation needed]

-st is used with numbers ending in 1 (spoken or written fully as -first), -nd is used with numbers ending in 2 (spoken or written fully as -second), -rd is used with numbers ending in 3 (spoken or written fully as -third), and -th is used for all other numbers' ordinals. There is an important exception: the "teens" ending with -11 through -19 use the -th ordinal (spoken or written out fully with a -th suffix): 11th for eleventh, 114th for one-hundred fourteenth, etc.


The suffixes -er (e.g. 1er – premier), -re (e.g. 1re – première), and -e (e.g. 2edeuxième). These indicators use superscript formatting whenever it is available. Alternatively, the suffix -ème is used in place of -e (e.g. 2èmedeuxième).

The suffix º is used for terms like primo, secundo, and tertio as , , and .


Unlike other Germanic languages, Dutch is similar to English in this respect: the French layout with -e used to be popular, but the recent spelling changes now prescribe the suffix -e. Optionally -ste and -de may be used, but this is more complex and nowadays less used:[citation needed] 1ste (eerste), 2de (tweede), 4de (vierde), 20ste (twintigste), etc.

Croatian, Czech, Danish, Estonian, Faroese, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Latvian, Norwegian, Polish, Slovak, Slovene, Serbian, Turkish

A period or full stop is written after the numeral. The same usage, apparently borrowed from German, is now a standard in Polish, where it replaced the superscript of the last phoneme (following complex declension and gender patterns, e.g., 1-szy, 7-ma, 24-te, 100-ny; use of such contractions is considered an error; probably it's a calque from Russian, see below).

Galician, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish

The suffixes -o and -a are appended to the numeral depending on whether the number's grammatical gender is masculine or feminine respectively. As with French, these signs are preferably superscripted, but in contrast, they are often underlined as well. Some character sets provide characters specifically for use as ordinal indicators in these languages: º and ª (in Unicode U+00BA and U+00AA[1]). The masculine ordinal indicator U+00BA (º) is often confused with the degree sign U+00B0 (°), which looks very similar in many fonts and is available on Italian and Spanish keyboard layout. The degree sign is a uniform circle and is never underlined, while the letter o may be oval or elliptical and have a varying stroke width. The letter o may also be underlined.

In Spanish, using the two final letters of the word as it is spelt is not allowed,[2] except in the cases of primer (an apocope of primero) before singular masculine nouns, which is not abbreviated as 1.o but as 1.er. And the same happens with tercer (an apocope of tercero) before singular masculine nouns, which is not abbreviated as 3.o but as 3.er. With compound ordinals ending in "primer" or "tercer", the same applies. For instance, "twenty-first" is vigésimo primer before a masculine noun, and its abbreviation is 21.er. Since none of these words should be shortened before feminine nouns, their correct forms for those cases are primera and tercera. These can be represented as 1.a and 3.a.


The suffix is appended to all numerals, 1ú, 2ú, 3ú 4ú etc., even though the written form does not simply attach the suffix to all numbers, i.e.

  • a haon - chéad (an t-aonú) - 1ú
  • a dó - dara - 2ú
  • a trí - tríú - 3ú
  • a ceathair - ceathrú - 4ú
  • a cúig - cúigiú - 5ú


The rule is to follow the number with the last letter in the singular and the last two letters in the plural.[3] Most numbers follow the pattern exemplified by vint "20" (20è m sg, 20a f sg, 20ns m pl, 20es f pl), but the first few ordinals are irregular, affecting the abbreviations of the masculine forms. Superscripting is nonstandard.


Example of ordinal indicator in Russian, 1913

One or two letters of the spelled-out numeral are appended to it (either after a hyphen or, rarely, in superscript). The rule is to take the minimal number of letters that include at least one consonant phoneme. Examples: 2-му второму /ftɐromu/, 2-я вторая /ftɐraja/, 2-й второй /ftɐroj/ (note that in the second example the vowel letter я represents two phonemes, one of which (/j/) is consonant).


When the numeral is followed by its head noun (which indicates the grammatical case of the ordinal), it is sufficient to write a period or full stop after the numeral: Päädyin kilpailussa 2. sijalle 'In the competition, I finished in 2nd place'. However, if the head noun is omitted, the ordinal indicator takes the form of a morphological suffix, which is attached to the numeral with a colon. In the nominative case, the suffix is ‑nen for 1 and 2, and ‑s for larger numerals: Minä olin 2:nen, ja veljeni oli 3:s 'I came 2nd, and my brother came 3rd'.

The system becomes rather complicated when the ordinal needs to be inflected, as the ordinal suffix is adjusted according to the case ending: 3:s (nominative case, which has no ending), 3:nnen (genitive case with ending ‑n), 3:tta (partitive case with ending ‑ta), 3:nnessa (inessive case with ending ‑ssa), 3:nteen (illative case with ending ‑en), etc. Even native speakers sometimes find it difficult to exactly identify the ordinal suffix, as its borders with the word stem and the case ending may appear blurred. In such cases it may be preferable to write the ordinal as a word (i.e., entirely with letters) instead – and particularly 2:nen is rare even in the nominative case, as it is not significantly shorter than if written as a word (toinen).


The general rule is that :a (for 1 and 2) or :e (for all other numbers, except 101:a, 42:a, et cetera) is appended to the numeral. When indicating dates, suffixes are never used. Examples: "1:a klass" (first (i.e. business) class), "3:e utgåvan" (third edition), but "6 november". Furthermore, suffixes can be left out if the number obviously is an ordinal number, example: "3 utg." (3rd ed). Using a full stop as an ordinal indicator is considered archaic, but still occurs in military contexts. Example: "5. komp" (5th company).

Similar conventions

Some languages use superior letters as a typographic convention for abbreviations that aren't related to ordinal numbers – the letters o and a may be among those used, but they don't indicate ordinals:

Spanish uses the indicator letters in some abbreviations, such as Vº Bº for visto bueno ("approved"); and for Maria, a Spanish name frequently used in compounds like José Mª.
In Portuguese, the underlined "º" and "ª" are used with many abbreviations, and should be preceded by a period. In fact, there is no limit for which words may be abbreviated this way. Sometimes, other letters are also written before the "º" or "ª". For example: Ex.mo for Excelentíssimo (an honorific), L.da for Limitada (Ltd.), Sr.a for Senhora (Ms.), etc.
English has borrowed the "No." abbreviation from the Romance languages word numero (according to the OED[1], the term is from the Latin numero, which is the ablative form of the word numerus ("number"). Similar forms exist as the word for "number" is derived in other Romance languages: numero in Italian, numéro in French, and número in Spanish and Portuguese), applying it as an abbreviation for the English word "number". This is sometimes written as "Nº", with the superscript o optionally underlined; see numero sign.

Use of the ordinal-indicating Unicode characters for these kinds of abbreviations is a matter of preference, but can be misleading; the "º" in "Nº", for example, is not intended to indicate ordinality at all.

See also


External links

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