• Relating to or based on the number twenty.

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Example Sentences

“My math teacher gave me a silly answer for why some ancient civilizations used a base-20, or vigesimal, math system: Humans have 10 fingers and 10 toes.”

“There are 19 people in front of you in line, so you’re in the vigesimal spot.”

“I have an affinity for all things vigesimal: I was born on June 20, I met my husband when I was 20, and my daughter was born on January 20.” 

Word Origin

Latin, mid-17th century

Why this word?

The numbering and math system we commonly use is the base-10, or decimal system. But if you remember from your school days, math principles still work on any system. Base-20 is called the vigesimal system, from the Latin “vigesimus,” with “viginti” meaning 20. The ancient Maya and Aztec civilizations used vigesimal numbers, and the modern French numbering system has evidence of a past vigesimal system (the word for 80 is “quatre-vingts,” or “four-twenties”). We won’t get too deep into how a vigesimal system works, but instead of things being structured around 10s, 100s, 1,000s, and so on, the math works around 20s. As a regular adjective (outside of the math system), “vigesimal” can apply to anything related to 20, and it can be a synonym for 20th.

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