Wednesday, December 20, 2006

All In Order

Q. I know that the sequence of ranking numbers starts out as primary, secondary, and tertiary, but where does it go after that?

A. Here is a partial list of ordinal numbers, all confirmed as legitimate words in the online Oxford English Dictionary:
1. primary
2. secondary
3. tertiary
4. quaternary
5. quinary
6. senary
7. septenary
8. octonary
9. novenary
10. decenary

In all cases, the -ary suffix means connected with or pertaining to. The root section is a letter combination designating a particular number.

prim- Primacy means being first in order, rank, importance, or authority. Primal urges belong to the first stage or primitive condition. A prime minister is the first or principal minister or servant of any sovereign, ruler, or state.
second- Second-class is next and inferior to the top. Secondary colors are a mixture or combination of the primary colors (red, green, violet).
tert- To tertiate is to do anything for the third time. In philosophy, a tertium quid is something undefined that is related in some way to two known things, but is distinct from both of them.
quat- A quaternion is a set of four poems. Quaternity postulates four persons in the Godhead, in contrast to the traditional Trinity.
quin- A quincentennial is a 500-year celebration or anniversary. A quintet is a composition for five voices or instruments. NOTE of Caution: sometimes the root -quin- can mean quinine: quininic, quinism.
sen- A sennight is a period of seven days and nights--a week. Some creatures are senocular; they have six eyes. Most often, sex- is the prefix used to designate six.
NOTE of Caution: most often, sen- signifies old age: senate, senile.
sept- Septagonal means having seven angles. Septarchy is soverieignty shared by seven rulers. Something septennial lasts for seven years or recurs every seven years.
oct- If a figure is octagonal, it has eight sides. An ecclesiastical octave lasts for eight days: the festival itself, plus the seven days following. An octavo is a page size produced by folding a standard printing sheet three times to form a section of eight leaves.
nov- In the Roman calendar, November was the ninth month. Something novemfid consists of nine sections. A church novena involves nine successive days filled with special prayers. NOTE of Caution: most often, nov- signifies new: novelty, novice.
dec- A decade is a period of ten years. A decagon is a plane figure having ten sides and ten angles. The Decalogue is a set name for the Ten Commandments.

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