What Is The Difference Between Ordinal And Cardinal Numbers?

I was doing some writing on a novel and ended up researching a bunch of topics, one of which happened to be about Richard the Lionheart, also known as Richard coeur de lion. That’s just French for Richard the Lionheart. Anyway, it turns out that he was also known as King Richard I but is one of the few English monarchs to be remembered by his epithet rather than his regnal number.

Bear with me, I’m getting to today’s topic. Now epithet I knew, and for those who don’t it’s basically a nickname, though Oxford English Dictionary has this to say about epithet:

An adjective indicating some quality or attribute which the speaker or writer regards as characteristic of the person or thing described.

And a regnal number I wasn’t quite sure about it, but figured it had to have something to do with his reign, or regal status, as both of those words come from the root Latin word ‘reg’ which means monarch or king. And I figured that because kings and queens lack imagination and often name themselves after previous kings and queens you get kings like King Henry VIII. This King Henry who took over from his papa Henry VII was responsible for the reformation. Basically he reformed England from a Catholic country to a Protestant one so he could divorce and kill his first wife Anne Boleyn. My suspicion is because she couldn’t bear him a son.

That’s pure speculation but the charges of her committing adultery and incest seem trumped up and she was put to death shortly after her last miscarriage.

Incidentally, Henry VIII died at the age of 55, a morbidly obese man with a waist measurement at the time of 54 inches. This was quite the accomplishment considering much of England lived in poverty. Basically, he was a philanderer and an asshole who was succeeded by his son Edward VI. Why not Henry IX. I have no idea, and frankly, I’m not that interested in the English monarchy to look it up. In any event I want to get back to the topic at hand.

You’ll notice I haven’t been saying Hentry the 8th. See, that’s where we get to the difference between ordinal and cardinal numbers. However, I still haven’t told you what regnal means. Let’s get it from the horse’s… err, Oxford English Dictionary’s mouth:

Of or relating to a reign, monarch, or kingdom.

So basically I was correct. It has something to do with a monarch’s reign. Wikipedia says a regnal number is an ordinal number. What does that mean? OED says it relates to ‘an ordinal number’, frikking helpful!

Anyway, an ordinal number is a number that ORDERS things, see how I got ORDER from ORDinal? So let’s say you have three marbles in front of you. What are their order? Well, the one in front is the FIRST, the one just to the right of it is in SECOND place and the last one is THIRD. First, second, third are ordinal numbers. Numbers that name things in order. So Henry the 8th is the eighth kind to carry the name of Henry.

Cardinal numbers on the other hand COUNT things. See how I got COUNT from Cardinal i.e. only the C in cardinal. They are similar to ordinal numbers but slightly different. You have how many marbles? You have THREE marbles. Take away ONE marble and how many do you have? TWO marbles. One, two and three and so on are cardinal numbers. Capiche?

Ordinal numbers are only natural numbers. Natural numbers are only positive whole numbers from 1 on up. Basically, natural numbers are also known as the positive counting numbers.

Cardinal numbers are the integers. Integers include whole numbers and natural numbers as well as their negatives. Whole numbers are the natural numbers with zero (0). You couldn’t really have King Henry the -8th could you?

Hope this helps.