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I am learning now the numbers in Spanish, but I would like to understand something.
When I see the numbers names between 11-19 in Spanish, then I've noticed that is a portmanteau of the number plus the suffix "ce".

For example:

  • Once is 11, because it is uno + the suffix "ce".

  • Doce = 12 (doce + "ce")

  • Trece = 13 (tres + "ce")

  • Catorce = 14 (cuatro + "ce")

But when we come to number 15, unlike the previous numbers, then I don't find the explanation of the relation between cinco and the name quince. What is the explanation for that?

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  • Spanish has no such word as *sinco, only cinco. This would make more sense if you were learning a non-seseante dialect, since then [sinco] and [θinco] would sound nothing like each other, and therefore you would not make spelling mistakes. See here for transcription symbols.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 1:34
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    Note that there's also sece (very old fashioned) for 16 as well. But the /k(w)i/ transition to Spanish was irregular, at times maintaining /k/ (quince, quinientos), and at others softening to /θ/~/s/ (cinco, cincuenta), even with a similar root Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 2:25
  • Related, but in Spanish: ¿Cuál es el origen de los nombres de los números?.
    – Charlie
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 7:28
  • On a related note, does anybody know why cuatro /kw/- but catorce /k-/ and cinco /s/- but quince /k/-? I mean Latin /kw/- almost regularly changed to /k/ except before /a/, and then /k/ changed to /ts/ before front vowels. It looks as if both catorce and quince are exceptions, but catorce is an exception of an exception!
    – pablodf76
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 10:23

1 Answer 1

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Cinco comes from the Latin quinque and cuatro comes from the Latin quattuor.

Over time the spelling follows the general pronunciation, and you get modifications as you mentioned.

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  • He may not be aware that cinco follows the pronunciation, given how he’s spelled it.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 1:46
  • Therefore 5° == quinto
    – jasilva
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 21:19

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