Numbers index

Counting Sheep

Words for numbers --- English --- French and German --- Songs --- Counting sheep

This is an account of counting sheep in Northumberland:

"Counting livestock was by the score, and even in the 1960s some of the old Northumberland shepherds still used the old language - een, tean, thether and so on. The shepherd would count to 20 (a score). At this point a finger would be clenched and the count started again. Thus an accurate count could be kept to 600, using the fingers of one hand for the scores, and the fingers of the other hand for the hundreds. There would be very few flocks exceeding 400 in Northumberland."

I am not sure where this language comes from - some of the words are similar to Welsh, but not others.

DigitNumberShepherds numberWelsh number
2twoteandau (m) / dwy (f)
3threethethertri (m) / tair (f)
4fourmetherpedwar (m) / pedair (f)

These counts varies around Britain. Here is a count to twenty from Borrowdale.
1 - 5YanTyanTetheraMetheraPimp
6 - 10SetheraLetheraHoveraDoveraDick
11 - 15Yan-a-dickTyan-a-dickTethera-dickMethera-dickBumfit
16 - 20Yan-a-bumfitTyan-a-bumfitTethera BumfitMethera BumfitGiggot

For more information, including other versions of the count, see: