yksi, kaksi, kolme

Counting is Finnish is not a rocket science, even if the words appear alien. In fact, they are alien. Apart from nolla, which is derived from Latin nullus, and seitsemän (which sounds to me like a hybrid of seven and семь), the numbers are, well, unlike anything. And how on earth one is supposed to count, say, “one, two, three, five, six, seven” in salsa class? Yksi, kaksi, kolme, viisi, kuusi, seitsemän? This just does not make any sense. (Apparently, in spoken Finnish they just shorten the numerals like this: yks, kaks, kol, nel, viis, kuus, seits… So one can do that salsa count after all.)

But wait. I think I can spy something interesting about Finnish numbers 8 and 9. Wiktionary says that kahdeksan is “a compound of kahde- (genitive of kaksi-) and -ksan”, and yhdeksän is “a compound of yhde- (genitive of yksi-) and -ksän”. Except it is not at all clear what is ksan/ksän. And why only one of them got umlaut?

According to Wikipedia,

The words kahdeksan “eight” and yhdeksän “nine” have no confirmed etymology. The old theory is that they are compounds: *kaks-teksa “10–2”, or “eight” and *yks-teksa “10–1”, or “nine”, where the reconstructed word *teksa is similar to the Indo-European words for “ten” (*dek´m), but this is phonologically not plausible.

Hey, I already came out with exactly the same theory, on my own. Why it’s not plausible? I don’t know. Maybe because kymmenen sounds nothing like deksan. So what? “Kilo” does not sound like “one thousand”, and yet we are using it all the time.

Finnish numerals from 11 to 19 are uniformly created by adding suffix -toista. In contrast to English -teen, German -zehn, Russian -надцать etc., toista does not mean “ten” but is a form of ordinal number toinen, “the second” (decade, that is).

The rest is helppo tehtävä (easy-peasy): kymmenen is ten, kymmentä is tens; sata is one hundred, sataa is hundreds; tuhat is one thousand, tuhatta is thousands. The resulting glued-together words look frightening but are actually easy to understand… provided that you still remember how to count to ten.

# English Finnish Russian
0 zero, nil nolla ноль
1 one yksi один
2 two kaksi два
3 three kolme три
4 four neljä четыре
5 five viisi пять
6 six kuusi шесть
7 seven seitsemän семь
8 eight kahdeksan восемь
9 nine yhdeksän девять
10 ten kymmenen десять
11 eleven yksitoista одиннадцать
12 twelve kaksitoista двенадцать
13 thirteen kolmetoista тринадцать
14 fourteen neljätoista четырнадцать
15 fifteen viisitoista пятнадцать
16 sixteen kuusitoista шестнадцать
17 seventeen seitsemäntoista семнадцать
18 eighteen kahdeksantoista восемнадцать
19 nineteen yhdeksäntoista девятнадцать
20 twenty kaksikymmentä двадцать
21 twenty-one kaksikymmentäyksi двадцать один
30 thirty kolmekymmentä тридцать
40 forty neljäkymmentä сорок
50 fifty viisikymmentä пятьдесят
60 sixty kuusikymmentä шестьдесят
70 seventy seitsemänkymmentä семьдесят
80 eighty kahdeksankymmentä восемьдесят
90 ninety yhdeksänkymmentä девяносто
100 one hundred sata сто
101 one hundred and one satayksi сто один
125 one hundred and twenty-five satakaksikymmentäviisi сто двадцать пять
200 two hundred kaksisataa двести
300 three hundred kolmesataa триста
400 four hundred neljäsataa четыреста
500 five hundred viisisataa пятьсот
600 six hundred kuusisataa шестьсот
700 seven hundred seitsemänsataa семьсот
800 eight hundred kahdeksansataa восемьсот
900 nine hundred yhdeksänsataa девятьсот
1000 one thousand tuhat тысяча
2000 two thousand kaksituhatta две тысячи
2013 two thousand and thirteen kaksituhattakolmetoista две тысячи тринадцать

Counting in Finnish