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Numbers and Numerology: Searching for Meaning

Updated on June 18, 2013

The early history of mathematics shows the development of mathematics and the field of numerology were linked. The ancient Greek mathematician Pythagoras believed that because numbers had order and could be classified, there had to be some divine meaning behind them. It was not until the fourth or fifth century A.D. that mathematics and numerology started to part ways. This article examines numerology and its current applications. This article does not support or refute numerology, only provide information about a curious subject.

What is Numerology?

In any discussion it helps to have a definition of the topics being discussed. So this article starts with a definition of the subject. Wikipedia defines numerology as "any study of the purported divine, mystical or other special relationship between a number and some coinciding observed (or perceived) events." In other words numerology is the study of numbers and special meanings behind numbers. Not every number has to have special meaning but there are certain numbers that do. There are several types of numerology.

Early systems of numerology simply assigned a numerical value to letters of the alphabet. Some of the cultures that employed this early form of numerology are the Arabs, the Hebrews, and the Greeks. This allowed words in the language to be translated to numbers and then the numbers manipulated to a single digit as the result.

Chinese numerology took a different approach. The numbers one through nine were related with special characteristics. For example, the number eight refers to fortune and prosperity while the number six refers to ease and smoothness. Certain combinations of these digits also signify luck or even great quantities of something. For example, 888 refers to extreme wealth.

Irish numerology associates the numbers zero through thirteen with different attributes. For example, nine referred to completeness while six corresponded to equilibrium in life. The ancient Irish were not as superstitious about numbers as other cultures. The belief was that each number lead to the next, so as there was an increase in the numbers, so increased completeness.

Modern Applications

Numerology today often has metaphysical topics associated with it. Generally, when numerology is mentioned, things like spirituality and astrology are also mentioned. Tarot cards have also been linked to numerology. As with astrology, modern numerology assumes a rhythm to life and certain numbers represent better times in life than others.

The assumption that certain numbers represent better or worse times in life has lead to numerology being used to create "lucky numbers". Some Internet sites claim to take your name and use numerology to determine your path or destiny (click here for an example). Some sites claim to be able to compute lucky numbers with an ethnic numerology, presumably for use with gambling (click here for an example). Whether these actually work or not is up to the reader to decide.


The study of numerology is certain a curious topic. Personal opinion will dictate whether there is really any substance to the topic. What seems to be a common theme running through all of the types of numerology is a sense of meaning in numbers that might otherwise might be quite dull.


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