Sheep scoring numbers

These numbers are thought to be remnants of Brythonic languages related to Welsh and Cornish. They were collected from many parts of the British Isles mainly during the 19th century and there are many versions of them. They were used in children's counting games, and to count sheep and cattle, knitting stitches, money and so on.

Like traditional Welsh numbers, the sheep scoring systems are vigesimal. Most versions only go up to 20, and for each 20 or score shepherds would put a pebble in their pocket, scratch a mark on a stick or stone, or use grooves, nobbles and nicks in their crooks to keep track of how many they'd counted.

These numbers were used in some places, particularly the Lake District, until the early 20th century, though by then only a few people remembered them.

Here is a selection of sheep scoring numbers from Cumbria and Yorkshire:

If any of the numbers are links, you can hear a recording by clicking on them. If you can provide recordings, please contact me.


  Millom Keswick Kirkby Lonsdale
1 aina yan yaan
2 peina tyan tyaan
3 para tethera taed'ere
4 pedera methera mead'ere
5 pump pimp mimp
6 ithy sethera haites
7 mithy lethera saites
8 owera hovera haoves
9 lavera dovera daoves
10 dig dick dik
11 aina-dig yanadick yaan'edik
12 peina-dig tanadick tyaan'edik
13 para-dig tetheradick tead'eredik
14 pedera-dig petheradick mead'eredik
15 bumfit bumfit boon / buom / buum
16 aina-bumfit yanabumfit yaan'eboon
17 peina-bumfit tanabumfit tyaan'eboon
18 para-bumfit tetherabumfit tead'ereboon
19 pedera-bumfit petherabumfit mead'ereboon
20 giggy jiggit buom'fit / buum'fit


  North Riding Swaledale Wensleydale
1 arn yahn yan
2 tarn tayhn tean
3 tethera tether tither
4 fethera mether mither
5 pubs mimph pip
6 aayther hither teaser
7 layather lither leaser
8 quoather anver catra
9 quaaather danver horna
10 dugs dic dick
11 arnadugs yahn-dic yan-dick
12 tarnadugs tayhndic tean-dick
13 tetheradugs tetherdic tither-dick
14 fetheradugs metherdic mither-dick
15 buon mimphit / mump bumper
16 arnabuon yahn-a-mimphit yan-a-bum
17 tarnabuon tayhn-a-mimphit tean-a-bum
18 tetherabuonf tether-a-mimphit tither-a-bum
19 fetherabuon mether-a-mimphit mither-a-bum
20 gun-a-gun jigit jiggit

Hear some of these numbers:

Here's a song I wrote featuring these numbers:

Information about Cumbric | Phrases | Numbers | Tower of Babel


More information about the sheep scoring numbers

Numbers in Celtic languages

Proto-Celtic, Celtiberian, Gaulish, Proto-Brythonic, Cumbric, Old Welsh, Middle Welsh, Welsh, Middle Cornish, Cornish, Old Breton, Middle Breton, Breton Old Irish, Middle Irish, Irish, Manx, Scottish Gaelic

Numbers in other languages

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