Why is everything 4?

A long time ago I heard someone say that everything is 4. At first I didn't believe them. I thought they where just making it up. But after they explained it to me I saw the truth.

  • There are several other languages where everything is 4, select one of the languages below to see the proof in that particular language.
  • There are also several languages where everything is almost 4:
  • and some languages which are neither 4 or almost 4:


You probably have figured it out already if you tried the above form for a couple of things. If not try a few more before you read on.

The trick is that you look at how many characters a word contains. E.g. everything contains ten characters. Ten contains three characters. Hence ten is three. Three again, consists of five characters. Five uses the magic number of four characters. Four has four characters and is thus four.

It is as simple as that.

It works because four is the only number with the same number of characters as it's value. All the other values converge to four at a given point.

Other languages

Four works

English isn't the only language this works with. It also works in Dutch (vier = 4) this is also the language I heard of it originally since I'm Dutch :)

I received an email from Mati Soomre proving that in Estonian everything is neli = 4 - thank you Mati.

In German everything is (vier = 4). A thank you to James who pointed out some typos in the original German counting words on my site, they have now been corrected.

I received an e-mail from Doron Seijffers who pointed out to me that everything is also 4 in Hebrew, thank you Doron.

See proof or 0 - 100 in English, Dutch proof or 0 - 100, Estonian proof or 0 - 100, German proof or 0 - 100, Hebrew proof or 0 - 100.

Kind of works (Four is not quite 4)

It kind of works in Croatian, Czech and Italian, but everything in any of these languages is 3 (= tri, tri and tre).
See proof or 0 - 100 in Czech, Italian proof or 0 - 100.

Thanks to Sarah-Jane Clarke who pointed out a mistake in the Italian counting numbers and to also thanks to Fred and Dany who answered my questions about the Italian counting numbers.

Thanks to Antoinette Phipps for correcting the Croatian counting number 7 and Igor Tomušić who pointed out loads of small corrections.

Mihai Ghimus send me an e-mail that everything in Romanian is 5 (cinci). Thanks Mihai.
See proof or 0 - 100 in Romanian.

I had another look at Welsh and it is a bit of a special case. There is an old fashioned and a decimal way of counting. Both have different words are used for counting masculine forms and feminine forms. e.g. 'tair merch' (three females) but 'tri bachgen' (three boys). Turns out using the feminine version everything is 6: See proof or 0 - 100 in Welsh (feminine). .

Nevis Hulme was kind enough to send me the counting words in Scottish Gaelic (both traditional and modern counting systems), turns out everything is 3 (trì): See proof or 0 - 100 in Scottish Gaelic (Traditional), Scottish Gaelic (Modern) proof or 0 - 100.  

Doesn't work

There are also some languages (in alphabetic order) in which it doesn't work at all.

Ove Saeth emailed me how to count in Chinese. Everything is either 2(=er) or 3(=san). Thank you, Ove for this additional language.
See proof or 0 - 100 in Chinese.

In Danish everything is either 2(=to), 3(=tre) or 4(=fire).

Tnx to Karsten Jensen who mailed me the Danish word for 0 which wasn't in my old Danish/Dutch dictionary :). Also tnx to Christian Ravn who pointed out that you write the Danish counting words as one word. (e.g. syvoghalvtreds not syv og halvtreds).
See proof or 0 - 100 in Danish.

For a moment Jari. T. and I thought that everything in Finnish was 5. Unfortunately we then noticed that you often end up in an endless loop between 8 (kahdeksan) and 9 (yhdeksan). Thank you Jari T. for letting me know the counting words in Finnish!
See proof or 0 - 100 in Finnish.

In French you'll end up in a rather long loop since 4 (quatre) => 6 (six) => 3 (trois) => 5 (cinq) => 4 (quatre).
See proof or 0 - 100 in French.

I used to have Hungarian listed as a language where everything was 4 (= negy), but Tamas Tenyei -who is Hungarian- pointed out to me that you often end in a loop between 5 (ot) and 2 (ketto), something I failed to notice while I was checking the Hungarian dictionary. (Thank you Tamas for letting me know).
See proof or 0 - 100 in Hungarian.

Japanese: browsing the internet I came across a Japanese language website. A quick check showed that you either end up on 3 (san) or 2 (ni) -- please insert funny Monty Python joke here --
See proof or 0 - 100 in Japanese.

Oystein Bjorklund-Lassen e-mailed me that counting in Norwegian is very similar to counting in Danish everything is either 2(=to), 3(=tre) or 4(=fire). Thanks Oystein for sending me all Norwegian counting words from 1 - 100.
See proof or 0 - 100 in Norwegian.

In Polish it doesn't work either. 4 (cztery) => 6 (szesc) => 5 (piec) => 4 (cztery).
See proof or 0 - 100 in Polish.

In Portuguese also ends in a loop, although only between 6 (seis) and 4 (quatro), but I received an email from Lino who said: "if you translate the word, 'Everything' means 'Tudo', which is... 4!!".
See proof or 0 - 100 in Portuguese.

In Russian 4 (=I think my keyboard is broken 'cause I can't find the Russian characters on my keyboard ;-) has 7 characters and 7 has 4 characters). You are eventually stuck in an endless loop.

In Spanish everything is either 5 (=cinco) or you end up in an endless loop between 4 (=quatro) and 6 (=seis).
See proof or 0 - 100 in Spanish.

In Swedish everything is either 3 (=tre) or 4 (=fyra) which makes it a bit hard to decide.
See proof or 0 - 100 in Swedish.

Everything in Turkish loops between 3 (uc) and 2 (=iki) which prevents it from ever becoming four.
See proof or 0 - 100 in Turkish.

Robert Bruce e-mailed me a while back that everything in Welsh was an endless loop. Huw Tegid of www.linklinewelsh.co.uk[website no longer exists] was kind enough to send me a very detailed description of counting in Welsh, even though his replies got lost in my spam box twice. In Welsh a word either ends up being 3 (tri) or 6 (chwech), except if you use the feminine forms.
Thanks to Lisa Morris for pointing out a typo in the Welsh counting words.
See proof or 0 - 100 in Welsh (masculine).

These are all the languages of which I have a small pocket dictionary. If you know of any other languages where everything is 4 (or not), please let me know.

I tried to be as precise and accurate as possible, but as you can see from the revisions, my inferences from the dictionaries aren't always 100% correct. So if you happen to spot a mistake, please let me know.

Counting words in 22 languages

I've made an counting overview page with counting words for 0 to 100 in all languages on this website.

Links and resources

I used the following websites, and a load of dictionaries, as reference for making this site.