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Confessions of an Old Fogey
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What comes after Quaternary?

What comes after Quaternary?

  • Comments 21

Valorie asked me this question today, and I figured I'd toss it out to everyone who runs across this post.

She works in a 5/6 split class, and they're working on a unit on patterns and functions.  They're ordering the data into columns, each of which is derived from the information in the previous column.

The question is: What do they label the columns?

The first couple are obvious: Primary, and Secondary.

Third and fourth: Tertiary, Quaternary.

But what's the label for the fifth and subsequent columns? suggested that they use quinary (5), senary (6), septenary (7), octonary (8), nonary (9) and denary (10), using the latin roots.

But the teacher in the class remembers a different order and thinks that the next one (5) should be cinquainary (using the same root as the poetry form cinquains).

Valorie also pointed to for a 2-page history lesson. Coolest fact she found: the "gon" part of the word means "knee" and the "hedron" means "seats" so a polygon means "many knees" and polyhedra means "many seats".

So does anyone have any suggestions?


  • When we had a whole school photograph taken the teacher described it as a quinquennial event. I'd never heard the expression before, but it made sense straight away.

    Looks like its a real word anyway
  • Personally I'd go with quinary etc. -- it's more likely to mean something to someone unfamiliar with the word (quintet is a common enough term). Cinquainary, nice though it may sound, would have meant nothing to me had it not had some sort of context, although I may have guessed at 50 or 500, as it looks vaguely like "cinquecento"...

    (I'm guessing that's meant to be, not too... :)
  • About polygons, one of the standard screensavers installed with Ubuntu Linux shows all the 3D polygons in order with their proper names and vertices. I found it so fascinating that I just sat and watched it for a while.
    As a child I used to play with Polydron
    sets, I only had the Equilateral triangles and squares, but found you could make some quite large solids using just those in repeating patterns.
  • How about 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 :)
  • Latin was many, many moons ago. Lessee if I can remember:

    primus, secundus, tertius, quartus, quintus, sextus, septimus, octavus, nonus, decimus.

    So.. following the pattern I would have to guess: quintinary, sextiary, septimary, octavary, nonary, decimary.
  • cinquainary is how I have heard the 5th go as well, and is the one I've always used.
  • There is also an interesting etymological fact about the latin and greek words for five, quinque and pente: Latin que and greek te both mean "and", and latin quin and greek pen both come from the root of the word for "thumb". So, when you count to 5 in greek or latin, you actually say "one, two, three, four, and thumb."
  • This reminds me, it _really_ bugs me when people use "ternary" when they mean "trinary". "Ternary" is a synonym for "tertiary" (third in a sequence). "Trinary" means three-way (just as "binary" means two-way). So ?: is a trinary operator, not a ternary operator.
  • I would go with Pentiumnary, Pentiumtwonary, Celeronary, Octonary, and then Nunnery.
  • Bob, where does Itaniary fit in?
  • Itaniary sounds like ten, and I missed that one, so there you go *cheesy grin*
  • Mike, the OED and American Heritage dictionary both disagree with you. Ternary can be a synonym for /either/ trinary or tertiary, depending on context.
  • Pentium & friends comes from the Greek numbering prefixes, which are used in chemistry btw. Sorry, but deca is the prefix for 10 (quite similar to the Latin prefix for 10).

    Does anybody know where 'Itan'-comes from? Or did they just make up that part of the name...
  • Yes, Itan comes from the word "to tan". Fact is, them Itaniums get so hot that if you sit in front of one, you might get a tan. Therefore: I tan = Itan. :) Totally made up, of course.

    btw: I would go with quinary. Cinquinary sounds (and probably is) French. Since we use Latin base (or else it would have been troisary or something like that for the 3rd), mixing in French is odd...
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