Ordinal Numbers in Spanish

What are ordinal numbers in Spanish?

Ordinal numbers (los números ordinales) allow us to put things in an order, ranking or sequence.

How to write Spanish ordinal numbers

1 primero 11 décimo primero / decimoprimero 21 vigésimo primero / vigesimoprimero 31 trigesimoprimero
2 segundo 12 décimo segundo / decimosegundo 22 vigésimo segundo / vigesimosegundo 40 cuadragésimo
3 tercero 13 décimo tercero / decimotercero 23 vigésimo tercero / vigesimotercero 50 quincuagésimo
4 cuarto 14 décimo cuarto / decimocuarto 24 vigésimo cuarto / vigesimocuarto 60 sexagésimo
5 quinto 15 décimo quinto / decimoquinto 25 vigésimo quinto / vigesimoquinto 70 septuagésimo
6 sexto 16 décimo sexto / decimosexto 26 vigésimo sexto / vigesimosexto 80 octogésimo
7 séptimo 17 décimo séptimo / decimoséptimo 27 vigésimo séptimo / vigesimoséptimo 90 nonagésimo
8 octavo 18 décimo octavo / decimoctavo 28 vigésimo octavo / vigesimoctavo 100 centésimo
9 noveno 19 décimo noveno / decimonoveno 29 vigésimo noveno / vigesimonoveno 1.000 milésimo
10 décimo 20 vigésimo 30 trigésimo 1.000.000 millonésimo

How to use Spanish ordinal numbers correctly

In Spanish, ordinal numbers agree with the gender and number of the noun they describe.

Examples:
el segundo autobústhe second bus
las segundas oportunidadesthe second opportunities
Manolo es el primero.Manolo is the first.
Anita es la tercera.Anita is the third.

Ordinal numbers in the tens and twenties (décimo..., vigésimo...) can be written together or separately.

Examples:
el vigésimo noveno corredorthe twenty-ninth runner
el vigesimonoveno corredor

Starting from the thirties, ordinal numbers are then only written as one word.

Example:
el trigesimosegundo corredorthe thirty-second runner

If the ordinal number is made up of two or more separate words, all of them agree with the gender and number of the noun they describe, and they all maintain their accents. If the ordinal number is written as one word, only the final component agrees with the noun and the first component loses its accent.

Examples:
la décima primera corredora (not: décimo primera)the eleventh runner
la decimoprimera corredora (not: décimoprimera, decimaprimera)
el trigesimosegundo corredor (not: trigésimosegundo)the thirty-second runner
la trigesimosegunda corredora (not: trigesimasegunda)

Exceptions with the ordinal numbers primero and tercero

We remove the ending -o from the ordinal numbers primero and tercero when they come before a masculine noun.

Examples:
Es mi primer coche.It’s my first car.
Es mi tercer intento.It’s my third try.

Writing ordinal numerals in Spanish

Like in English, Spanish ordinal numbers are abbreviated by placing letters next to the numeral. These are known as letras voladas (superscript letters). When the numeral comes before a masculine noun, we use the superscript letters o and er, whereas the superscript letter a appears before feminine nouns.

Examples:
el 3er corredor (el tercer corredor)the 3rd/third runner
el 29o corredor (el vigésimo noveno corredor)the 29th/twenty-ninth runner
la 31a corredora (la trigesimoprimera corredora)the 31st/thirty-first runner

Roman numerals

Spanish also uses Roman numerals for royal and noble titles that are read aloud as ordinal numbers.

Examples:
Juan Carlos I – Juan Carlos Primero
Isabel I – Isabel Primera
Alfonso X – Alfonso Décimo

Editions of events can also be written with Roman numerals as well as abbreviated ordinal numbers.

Example:
XVI edición del Festival de San Sebastián – Vigésima sexta edición del Festival de San Sebastián (also correct: 26a edición del Festival de San Sebastián)the 26th/XVI/Twenty-sixth Edition of the Festival of San Sebastián