How Long Has Been the Number Zero Around?
The first use of a zero-like symbol didn’t appear until around the 3rd century B.C. in ancient Babylon. The Babylonians used a sexagesimal number system, which means it was based on the number 60. The symbol they used to differentiate between magnitudes was a symbol that consisted of two small wedges.
Today, our modern number system is based upon the number 10. We use the number zero to help differentiate between magnitudes, such as 10, 100, 1000, and so on.
The earliest number systems used zero as simply a placeholder. It wasn’t until the 7th century A.D. in India that mathematician Brahmagupta expanded the view of zero to include seeing it as a real number with a null value.
Brahmagupta is also credited with being the first to demonstrate that subtracting a number from itself equals zero — a concept we consider extremely simple today. The zero then moved to China and back to the Middle East. It didn’t appear in Europe until the 12th century, which is less than a thousand years ago.
Did you have any idea that zero was such a new number? 0 (zero) is both a number and the numerical digit used to represent that number in numerals. It fulfills a central role in mathematics as the additive identity of the integers, real numbers, and many other algebraic structures.
As a digit, 0 is used as a placeholder in place value systems. Names for the number 0 in English include zero, nought or (US) naught, nil, or — in contexts where at least one adjacent digit distinguishes it from the letter “O” — oh or o. Informal or slang terms for zero include zilch and zip. Ought and aught, as well as cipher, have also been used historically.