Posted by: Jack Henry | November 9, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Numbers in different cultures

After looking at the meaning of different colors around the world, one of you asked me about the meaning of numbers in different cultures. What a fantastic thought! I couldn’t wait to do a little research on this.

I reviewed several sites, but some of them seemed a little “iffy” because they were poorly written, some seemed overly religious, and others did not seem very thorough. I chose The Meaning of Numbers Among Different Cultures as my primary reference, and I’m hoping it does not lead us astray. This article, and some of the others, had the primary goal to make sure people in marketing pay attention to numbers they use while advertising in different cultures. It’s tough to sell things to people if there is the feeling of misfortune associated with the numbers you use on a home address on your billboard. On the other hand, you may be subliminally representing luck by using numbers considered auspicious in another culture, and including them on the credit card shown in an ad.

Let’s look at the numbers that tend to be considered unlucky first. (Does that mean my glass is half full? No lottery tickets for me today!)


The Chinese consider the number four an unlucky number since its Chinese pronunciation sounds like the Chinese term for death. Therefore, buildings in China do not have a fourth floor, well, not physically, but in the buildings’ elevators, number four is not included. Instead, they use the letter F. The same belief is true in Japan and South Korea, and other Asian countries where Chinese is spoken.

But the belief is not applicable to Germany, where the number is considered lucky, because it is associated with the four-leaf clover which is a symbol for luck.


The sound of the number nine in Japan is very similar to the Japanese term for torture. It’s avoided because it is considered an unlucky number. Airlines and hospitals in Japan avoid the number for this reason.

However, in China, it is a lucky number as it’s considered as the emperor’s number. Norwegians consider it a sacred number because their folklore contains many stories with the number nine.


[KC] I will cover this on its own day.


Italians believe that 17 is an unlucky number…because 17 is written in Roman numerals as XVII. When you rearrange them you will arrive at VIXI, which is a Latin term for ”I lived.” The phrase is often used in tombstones.


Indians would try anything to avoid the number 26, which they consider as a very unlucky number…because many tragic incidences occurred on that particular date, such as terrorist attacks, tsunamis, and earthquakes….


In Afghanistan, the number 39 is viewed as unlucky because it sounds similar to ”morda-gow” which translates to ”dead cow” in the local language.


In Christian countries, the number 666 is considered ominous because it represents the beast (Antichrist) mentioned in the Bible’s Book of Revelations.

Here’s hoping you have a lucky day!

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her

Technical Editor, Advisory

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