Lucky and Unlucky Numbers in China, Japan, Korea … and Around the World

Every country and culture has its own superstitions, especially when it comes to numbers. In the US, for example, the number 13 is considered bad luck, and it’s why you’ll rarely see a 13th floor in hotels and some taller buildings. On the other hand, the number 7 is considered lucky, especially when there are three 7s in a row.

Some people are so averse to certain numbers that they avoid buying houses or getting phone numbers and license plates with their unlucky numbers. They’ll also avoid certain dates that have unlucky numbers (Friday the 13th, for example).

Around the world, the luckiest and unluckiest numbers stem from a variety of sources, including religion, math, history and, believe it or not, homonyms!

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Lucky and Unlucky Numbers in China

As Max Chang wrote in a 2017 Next Shark article, the number 4 is unlucky for Chinese because the word is a homonym to a Chinese word for death. So imagine, having a phone number that begins with “444” sounds like death-death-death. That is why the Chinese will request custom phone numbers for their businesses or homes, to avoid the number 4. On the other hand, it’s considered fortunate if you have a phone number with an 8.

In China, the number 8 sounds a lot like their word for prosperity. So, a phone number with a bunch of eights would be very lucky!

Lucky and Unlucky Numbers in Asia

While the number 9 is one of the luckiest numbers around the world, Japanese disagree. Some suggest it’s because the Japanese word for “nine” is similar to the Japanese word for “torture and suffering” (Source: How Stuff Works). Koreans find the number 4 unlucky because it is associated with death. Numbers 3, 8 and 9 are considered lucky numbers, according to the blog, 90 Day Korean.

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When it comes to aging, numbers have a different significance in Japan. There are “unlucky” ages for men and women, called yakudoshi. For women, yakudoshi is ages 19, 33 and 37; for men, it is 25, 42 and 60, although ages can vary from region to region.

Lucky and Unlucky Americans Numbers

Thirteen is one of the unluckiest numbers in the world. Why are so many Americans afraid of the number 13? One theory attributes the superstition to Norse mythology. When a 13th guest arrived at a party for 12 gods, bad things happened. Another theory traces it to Christian roots: Judas, the notoriously betraying disciple, was the 13th guest to arrive at the Last Supper.

Luckiest Numbers

In the US, as well as in many Western cultures, the numbers 3, 7 and 12 are considered lucky.

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  • Why number 3 is lucky: Some theories suggest it’s because of the way a man and woman come together to make a child (1 plus 1 plus 1 equals 3). Others suggest a tie to the father, son and holy spirit of Christianity.
  • Why is 7 lucky? According to an NPR article published on July 7, 2007, it could be because of Christianity — God made the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th. It could also be because it equates to the number of days in a week, number of continents on earth, the number of digits in an American phone number, the seven wonders of the world …
  • What about number 12? And that brings us to the number 12. Maybe it’s a winner because it’s so close to unlucky 13. Or maybe because it is so easily divided by 2, 3, 4, and 6? Or maybe because it’s because it equates to the months of the year, hours on a clock …

Most Unlucky Number in the World?

The numbers 4 and 13 seems to get the most avoidance. In Asian cultures, the number 4 is often associated with death — Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam all have words associated with death that sound similar to their words for the number 4. Tetraphobia, by the way, is the word for “fear of the number 4.”

In Triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13)This is the reason 55 of 629 condo buildings in Manhattan, for example, “skipped” the 13th floor, according to The Atlantic. Those buildings either go from 12 to 14, or they rename the 13th floor something else, like “penthouse” or “mezzanine.”

Speaking of tetraphobia and triskaidekaphobia … two other numbers are so feared that they too have their own phobic names heptadekaphobia is fear of the number 17 and hexakosiolhexakontahexaphobia is the fear of the number 666.

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Feature Image via Creative Commons

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