What we perceive as lucky or unlucky varies due to our own personal experiences and cultural beliefs. Some numbers have significance because of specific dates and others somehow make us feel “lucky” or “happy”, whilst others may give us cause for concern. One recent poll showed that the number seven was the most “popular” number, but around the world which numbers are considered lucky?

Is three the magic number?

Three is considered a positive or lucky number in Chinese culture due to the similarities in how it is pronounced (sān) compared to the word for alive (shēng), which is the reverse of four (sì) which sounds like the word for death (sǐ).

Whilst three does not have a homophone in English, there is an association between three and changes in luck, with idioms such as “third time’s a charm” or “third time lucky”, where after two failed attempts the third should be successful commonly used throughout the anglicised world.

Five flavours

In numerology, 5 or a series of 555, is often associated with change, evolution, love and abundance. In Chinese culture the number five is associated with the five elements – earth, water, fire, wood, metal – which are regarded as the basis for the entire world. There are also considered to be five flavours (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami/savoury), and five sacred mountains (Huashan, Hengshan in Hunan, Hengshan in Shanxi, Songshan and Taishan).

The importance of the figure, pronounced wu in Mandarin Chinese, can be seen by the five arches in the Tianamen gate, which is the main entrance to the Forbidden City, as well as the classification systems for flavours

Seven is the most “popular” number

As previously noted, seven continues to be the most popular number and the most common number for people to say when asked to give a number between one and ten. The reason for its popularity remains uncertain, but some historians argue that the seven days of the week comes from classical antiquity, where there were believed to be seven “planets” or “luminaries” observable to the naked eye: the Moon, the Sun, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, and Venus. And it takes seven days for the Moon to transition between each visible phase: full, waning half, new and waxing half.

In the Abrahamic traditions there are seven days in the week, with God resting on the seventh day, and in Christianity the number seven symbolises the unity of the four corners of the Earth and the Holy Trinity. In the Bible, Noah lived for 777 years and the number 777 is used to mark the people in which God chooses as his own in contrast to 666, which is considered the mark of the Devil.

The importance of triple seven as a lucky number has led to 777 identifying the jackpot on many slot machines, and where casino firm Casino777 takes its name.

Wealthy eights

The number eight is considered to be a lucky number in Chinese and a variety of other Asian cultures as its pronunciation bā sounds like the word for prosperity or the generation of wealth (fā). As such, property with the number eight carry additional value by many people across Asia, and the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony starting at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8pm on the 8th of August, 2008. Triple eight “888” is therefore understood by some as a triple fortune, with 888 popular with a number of casino businesses and games.

In Japanese, the number eight also signifies growing prosperity because the letter (八) broadens gradually at its base. And in the Christian tradition, the number 888 can be understood to represent Jesus, by counting the letter values of the Greek transliteration of Jesus’ name, and interpreted alongside 777 representing the Holy Trinity, and 666 the Devil.

Perfect nines

As the highest single digit number, the number nine symbolises “completeness” in the Baháʼí faith and is similarly revered in Hinduism as a complete, perfect, and divine number because it is the end of the decimal system which emerged out of the Indian subcontinent around 5,000 years ago.

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