Ordinal numbers

An ordinal number is a number used to tell order, or position. Ordinal numbers are often discussed alongside cardinal numbers and nominal numbers.

A podium is a common example of ordinal numbers that typically shows the first, second, and third place contestants in an event. First place is the position of the winner of the event, followed by second place, then third place.

On a podium, the order is typically indicated using height; first place is positioned the highest, and third place the lowest. It is not uncommon to list numbers from top to bottom, where 1st is the topmost number. Another common way that ordinal numbers may be organized is from left to right, with 1st being the position furthest to the left. There are many other ways a set of ordinal numbers can be organized. For example, in a race, 1st position is determined relative to the finish line; the person closest to the finish line is in 1st. If there were 20 people in the race, the person furthest from the finish line would be in 20th place.

Each ordinal number can be paired with a cardinal number (a whole number that tells how many of an object there are in a group).


Ordinal number   Cardinal number
first   one, or 1
second   two, or 2
third   three, or 3
fourth   four, or 4
tenth   ten, or 10
twenty-first   twenty-one, or 21
hundredth   one hundred, or 100