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Dates and numbers in Latin and English

Dating in documents

Many documents are dated not by the modern calendar year (the ‘year of the Lord’, or anno domini), but by the regnal year.

This is the number of years since the ruling monarch came to the throne. The date ‘1 Elizabeth I’, for example, means the first year of the reign of Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth I came to the throne on 17 November 1558, so the year 1 Elizabeth I ran from 17 November 1558 to 16 November 1559.

The year in England began officially on 25 March (Lady Day) until 1752. 

December 1558, for example, was followed by January 1558, and 24 March 1558 by 25 March 1559.

The change to 1 January was brought about by an Act of Parliament passed in 1751. 

The same Act cut 11 days out of the year 1752 in order to correct a divergence which had arisen over the centuries between the calendar and solar years.

Therefore Wednesday 2 September 1752 was followed immediately by Thursday 14 September.

Below are some examples of common Latin words and clauses used in dating documents.

Years

  • Year – annus
  • In the year (of) – anno
  • In the year of the Lord – anno domini
  • In the year of the reign of – anno regni

Months

  • Month/in the month (of) – mensis
  • January – Januarii
  • February – Februarii
  • March – Martii
  • April – Aprilis
  • May – Maii
  • June – Junii
  • July – Julii
  • August – Augusti
  • September – Septembris or vijris or *7ris
  • October – Octobris or viijris or *8ris
  • November – Novembris or ixris or *9ris
  • December – Decembris or xris or *10ris

* These abbreviations for September, October, November and December (which mean the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th months respectively) may also be found in documents written in English, in which they are likely to be in the forms 7er, 8er, 9er and 10er.

Days of the week

  • Day – dies
  • On the day (of) – di
  • Sunday (on) – die dominica
  • Monday – die lune
  • Tuesday – die martis
  • Wednesday – die mercurii
  • Thursday – die jovis
  • Friday – die veneris
  • Saturday – die sabbati

Words commonly used in dating

  • On the feast of – in festo
  • Before – ante
  • After – post
  • Next – proxima
  • On the eve of (the day before) – in vigilia
  • On the morrow of (the day after) – in crostino
  • In the year of the reign of king/queen… - anno regni regis/regine
  • After the conquest – post conquestum
  • In the year aforesaid – anno predicto

Some examples of dating clauses

  • Friday 1 October 1339 (Friday next after Michaelmas, 13 Edward III) - Die veneris proxima post festum sancti Michaelis Archangeli anno regni regis Edwardii tercii post conquestum tercio decimo
  • 2 September 1454 - ijo die Septembris A.D. Mlcccc liiijto
  • 7 April 1522 (13 Henry VIII) - Septimo die Aprilis Anno Regni Regis Henrici octavi tertio decimo
  • 21 December 1556 - xxjmo die mensis Decembris anno domini millesimo quingeno quinquagesimo sexto
  • 20 February 1603 - The twentieth day of February in the year of our Lord 1602

For more information about dates (including saints’ days and other religious festivals, regnal years, and terms of the law courts) see C R Cheney and M Jones (eds), A Handbook of Dates for Students of British History (Cambridge University Press, revd 2000).

Cardinal and ordinal numbers

  • 1, l, i or j (1st) – primo (io or imo)
  • 2, II or ij (2nd) – secondo (ijo)
  • 3, III, or iij (3rd) – tertio (iijo)
  • 4, IV, iiij or iv (4th) – quarto (iiijo or ivto)
  • 5, V or v (5th) – quinto (vo or vto)
  • 6, VI or vj (6th) – sexto (vjo or vjto)
  • 7, VII or vij (7th) – septimo (vijo)
  • 8, VIII or viij (8th) – octavo (viijo)
  • 9, IX or ix (9th) – nono (ixo)
  • 10, X or x (10th) – decimo (xo)
  • 11, XI or xj (11th) – undecimo (xjo)
  • 12, XII or xij (12th) – duodecimo (xijo)
  • 13, XIII or xiij (13th) – tertio decimo (xiijo)
  • 14, XIV, xiiij or xiv (14th) – quarto decimo (xiiijo)
  • 15, XV or xv (15th) – quinto decimo (xvo)
  • 16, XVI or xvj (16th) – sextus decimo (xvjo)
  • 17, XVII or xvij (17th) – septimo decimo (xvijo)
  • 18, XVIII or xviij (18th) – octavo decimo or duodevicesimo (xviijo)
  • 19, XIX or xix (19th) – nono decimo or undevicesimo (xixo)
  • 20, XX or xx (20th) – vicesimo (xxo)
  • 21, XXI or xxj (21st) - vicesimo primo (xxjo)*
  • 22, XXII or xxij (22nd) – vicesimo secondo (xxijo)*
  • 28, XXVIII or xxviij (28th) – vicesimo octavo or duodetricesimo (xxviijo)
  • 29, XXIX or xxix (29th) – vicesimo nono or undetricesimo (xxixo)
  • 30, XXX or xxx (30th) – tricesimo (xxxo)
  • 40, XL or xl (40th) – quadragesimo (xlo)
  • 50, L or l (50th) – quinquagesimo (lo)
  • 60, LX or lx (60th) – sexagesimo (lxo)
  • 70, LXX or lxx (70th) – septuagesimo (lxxo)
  • 80, LXXX, lxxx or iiijxx (80th) – octogesimo (lxxxo)
  • 90, XC, xc, lxxxx or iiijxxx (90th) – nonagesimo (lxxxxo)
  • 100, C or c (100th) – centesimo (co)
  • 200, CC, cc or ijc (200th) – ducentesimo (ccmo)
  • 300, CCC, ccc or iijc (300th) – trecentesimo (cccmo)
  • 400, CCCC, cccc or iiijc (400th) quadringentesimo (ccccmo)
  • 500, D, d, CCCCC, ccccc or vc (500th) – quingentesimo (cccccmo)
  • 600, DC, dc or vjc (600th) – sescentesimo
  • 1000, M or m (1000th) – millesimo (Mmo, mmo or ml)

*In documents written in English, these may be in the forms xxjth and xxijth, meaning ‘one and twentieth’ and ‘two and twentieth’, etc.

Roman, rather than Arabic, numerals were used in England until the 16th century and continued to appear in many Latin documents thereafter.

Counting was often in scores (twenties), indicated by a superscript xx. The use of iiijxx or ivxx, meaning four score (80), is especially common.

A superscript C or c indicates multiples of a hundred: thus vjc means 600 (or sometimes six hundredweight).

A half is dimidia, often abbreviated to di. or di. Pounds, shillings and pence (libre, solidi and denarii) are usually abbreviated in accounts to li., s. and d., often written as superscript.

½d. (obolus) and ¼d. (Quarta or quadrans) are usually ob, qa and qa.

Sums of money may also be expressed in marks (13s 4d), or in fractions or multiples of a mark. Half a mark (6s 8d) is especially common.

Examples of sums of money

  • 55s 4d – lvs ivd
  • £121 16s – cxxjli xvjs jd ob.
  • 33s. 10¾d - 1½d. xxxiijs xd ob' qu