I'm not entirely sure if this is the right place to ask this question, but since there are quite a few similar, not directly math-related questions, I assume it is okay.
I was just wondering why we say hexadecimal. I mean from base 1 to base 10 we use Latin words/prefixes as the name for each system and then at base 16 we suddenly add a Greek Hexa to the Latin Decimal. I don't get it. Shouldn't it be something like Sedecimal instead?


closed as off-topic by Namaste, Daniel W. Farlow, Claude Leibovici, Lord Shark the Unknown, José Carlos Santos Jun 27 '17 at 7:06

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question is not about mathematics, within the scope defined in the help center." – Namaste, Daniel W. Farlow, Claude Leibovici, Lord Shark the Unknown, José Carlos Santos
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ There is a stack exchange site dedicated to math and science history. You might get interesting answers there, in addition to the answers that you get here. $\endgroup$ – M_B Jun 26 '17 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ stancarey.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/… $\endgroup$ – Hans Lundmark Jun 26 '17 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ Roots from different languages are commonly mixed in other domains such as medicine. Why should mathematics be any different? $\endgroup$ – amd Jun 26 '17 at 23:33

From Wikipedia's Hexadecimal page, under the section "Cultural"

The word hexadecimal is composed of hexa-, derived from the Greek ἕξ (hex) for six, and -decimal, derived from the Latin for tenth. Webster's Third New International online derives hexadecimal as an alteration of the all-Latin sexadecimal (which appears in the earlier Bendix documentation). The earliest date attested for hexadecimal in Merriam-Webster Collegiate online is 1954, placing it safely in the category of international scientific vocabulary (ISV). It is common in ISV to mix Greek and Latin combining forms freely. The word sexagesimal (for base 60) retains the Latin prefix. Donald Knuth has pointed out that the etymologically correct term is senidenary (or possibly, sedenary), from the Latin term for grouped by 16. (The terms binary, ternary and quaternary are from the same Latin construction, and the etymologically correct terms for decimal and octal arithmetic are denary and octonary, respectively.) Alfred B. Taylor used senidenary in his mid-1800s work on alternative number bases, although he rejected base 16 because of its "incommodious number of digits". Schwartzman notes that the expected form from usual Latin phrasing would be sexadecimal, but computer hackers would be tempted to shorten that word to sex. The etymologically proper Greek term would be hexadecadic / ἑξαδεκαδικός / hexadekadikós (although in Modern Greek, decahexadic / δεκαεξαδικός / dekaexadikos is more commonly used).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Long before I learned about "Hexadecimal" numbers I learned that it is standard in the metric system to use Latin prefixes for lengths less than a meter (centmeter, decimeter) but Greek prefixes for lengths greater than a meter (dekameter, hectometer), even though "meter" itself is Latin. $\endgroup$ – user247327 Jun 26 '17 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ Why not hektometer since it's a κ in the original? ;o) $\endgroup$ – Bernard Jun 26 '17 at 20:05

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