Nominal Number|Definition & Meaning


Nominal numbers are numerals used as labels to identify items uniquely. Importantly, the actual values of the numbers which these numerals represent are less relevant, as they do not indicate quantity, rank, or any other measurement.

The numerals that are utilized to recognize something or somebody are known as “nominal numbers.” These numbers are set manually. e.g., mobile numbers are utilized to reach persons. The idea of nominal number is depicted in Figure 1 below:


Figure 1: Purpose of nominal numbers 

Concept of Nominal Numbers

The term “Nominal” directs to the utilization of numbers: a nominal numeral can be utilized by its numerical weight as a digit—added, multiplied, compared in magnitude, (and so forth) to other numbers.

However, for nominal numerals, such operations are not generally significant, e.g., the ZIP code 12222 is smaller than the code 12345, though it does not imply that 12222 was allocated before 12345 or that the area indicated by 12222 is further north than 12345.

Likewise, one may add or subtract these codes, but this is senseless: 12345 − 12222 does not have any usefulness as a ZIP code. A telephone numeral digit or a player of a team are examples of nominal numbers. Nominal digits do not represent quantity or level. They are only utilized to recognize something.

Nominal numbers, also called categorical numerals, are primarily the numbers that are utilized to specify something. The numerical weight is similar to the name. The numerical weight does not matter, and these digits do not represent quantity, level, or any other measure.

The use of the word “nominal” is rather recent; it evolved from the word “nominal data” used in statistics that suggest that the “nominal numbers are simply the assertions of the qualitative category of belonging.” These numbers are often used to represent the numerals as a name.

Furthermore, a nominal number can be classified in two meanings, i.e., “a number used for recognition. However, it needs to be priorly assigned,” or “a number telling no details other than identification.”

The scope of these numerals is not limited to use as just numbers, but they may contain alphabets, making representing numbers alphanumerical as seen in auto license numerals, auto number plates on vehicles, etc.

Hence, nominal numerals designate or identify something or somebody and describe things meaningfully but are not specified as a set of numbers, and also, they do not designate a quantity.

Utilization of Nominal Numbers in Real-life

Here are some examples using nominal numbers:

  • The zip code of the city or the digits written on a player’s shirt are examples of nominal numbers.
  • Labeling the referees, e.g., named William and Broad as referee numbers “1” and “2,” are examples of utilization of nominal numbers.
  • Jersey numbers, for example, “44” written on a player’s shirt, is an example of a nominal number.

Two such instances of the nominal number are shown in Figure 2 below:

nominal number example 1

Figure 2: Examples of nominal numbers

Use of Nominal Numbers

A set of numerals having consistent tags as long as a unique digit is utilized for each distinct term that needs to be labeled qualifies the definition of a nominal number. However, the ordering of integers needs to be utilized in the most straightforward way to start labeling, e.g., 1, 2, 3, …

Generally, the significant process with nominal numbers is to compare two nominal numerals to check whether those are similar or not, i.e., whether the numbers direct to the same thing.

Conversions of Nominal to Real Numbers

Firstly, the contrast between nominal and real information is often described in ‘A’ Level Economics level. The nominal details are current info at current prices, while real information is data that considers the impact of inflation, i.e., info at steady prices.

Difference Between Nominal, Cardinal, and Ordinal Numbers

The three types of numbers listed above are usually discussed jointly since it is essential to comprehend these numbers in order to effectively communicate messages using numerals. Shortly, a cardinal number is different from a nominal numeral in that cardinal numbers are utilized for counting.

For elaboration, the number ’24’ printed on the jersey just represents that particular person. However, the cardinal number 24 would represent a total of something, such as the total number of persons on the football team.

Ordinal numerals, unlike cardinal or nominal numerals, inform something regarding the order, status, or position. They may be specified by utilizing phrases such as first, second, third, and fourth to represent the respective cardinal numerals 1, 2, 3, and 4.

An example that incorporates the use of all three types of numbers is discussed next. Visualize for a moment that there are 15 players running in a race. Therefore 15 is a cardinal number. The players in the race are allocated the numbers 1-15 based on when they reported for the race.

Their respective numbers of reporting are nominal numerals, and only the three people who conclude the race fastest get a reward depending on whether they stood first, second, or third. Therefore first, second, and third are ordinal numbers.

Key to Difference: Cardinal is utilized to count or suggest ‘how many.’ Ordinal numerals are terms that denote ‘rank and order’ in a batch, and nominal numerals are the numbers that are used to recognize something.

Following is an example of a nominal number, as shown in Figure 3:

nominal number representation

Figure 3: An example of a nominal number

The words cardinal, ordinal and nominal are familiar phrases that are utilized in statistics or maths. The phrases are utilized to categorize numerals in a category to make it convenient to use. The notations are blurred for many individuals; however, one can comprehend them using a simple method.

Alternatively, we can say that a set of numerals that are utilized for labeling specific objects or locations so that they may be recognized conveniently are known as nominal numbers.

Whenever one has to recognize a thing uniquely, one may utilize nominal numbers. These numbers are not useful as they only give knowledge about the location and not about its amount, quality, etc.

Nominal numerals may be utilized as city codes, vehicle number plates, etc. Functions like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are meaningless on nominal digits. Although, if we use an operation, it will not yield anything indicative.

Contrary to this, ordinal numerals brief about the rank or position of a thing or an individual.  e.g., Alia lives in the $5^{\text{th}}$ home in Polo Avenue, New York.

Nominal Numbers Narrowly Defined

Numerical identifiers that are nominal numerals narrowly defined, viz, brief no details other than recognition, are relatively occasional. These must be specified either arbitrarily or randomly and most commonly apply in computer-related applications, such as dynamic IPs allocated by host Configuration Protocol.

Furthermore, more simple examples are sports team numerals that do not generally have any public definition beyond recognition, although they can be assigned based on some interior institution policy. On some grounds, these are based on position, but on others, they are associated with a person standing.

The naming process is illustrated by “retired numbers,” where an institution no longer gives a number that had become associated with a particularly famous team player but reallocates others to new participants when they evolve available.

Nominal Number Examples

Example 1

Write an example of a nominal number.


A phone number or cell number of a person is an example of a nominal number.

Example 2

Write an example in which a nominal number has been used to identify something.


For example, “12” can be used to identify a player playing in a certain team.

All images/mathematical drawings were created with GeoGebra.

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