Cardinal, Ordinal, and Nominal Numbers

If you’d like to know some of the lingo used to describe numbers, here is a quick rundown.

Cardinal numbers are numbers that are used in counting:

There were twenty children on the bus.

Ordinal numbers are used to describe the rank or position of something in a list:

She was the third runner to cross the finish line.

It’s his fiftieth birthday!

Other examples of ordinal numbers are first, second, fourth, and so on.

Nominal numbers are not used for counting or listing. They are used as names to identify something:

Who wants the number 9 jersey?

Prisoner 2089 is missing.

It can be tricky to tell the difference between cardinal and nominal numbers, as the latter do often involve an element of counting.

If it makes it easier to remember, try this mnemonic (memory aid):

cardinal = counting
ordinal = order
nominal = naming