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?

enter image description here

  • 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
  • 2
    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


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.

  • 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

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.