Heads up: Top comment and controversy

Seven is probably your favourite number, but do you know why?

Hooray for heptophiliacs: A recent study has found that the world’s favourite number is seven. We know there are seven days in a week and seven notes on the musical scale, but did you feel an unwarranted attraction to the sleek prime number – or any other figure, for that matter?  Fret not, because you’re not the only one.

London-based mathematician Alex Bellos carried out the online survey to research the “emotional connection” that people have with numbers. The survey, which attracted over 44,000 respondents, found that 3, 8, 4 and 5 took second, third, fourth and fifth place respectively. Weirdly, 110 came last.

But why were we drawn to these numbers in the first place? Their significance throughout culture, religion and history might have something to do with it.

SEVEN

In Christianity there are seven deadly sins, whilst in Judaism the seven-branched menorah symbolises the creation in seven days.  

Ancient Egyptians believed that there were seven gates to heaven and seven heavenly cows.

In China, seven is lucky because it sounds similar to, the Chinese word ‘qǐ’ meaning ‘arise’ and ‘life’.

The number 7 also features prominently in folk sayings – for instance, you get seven years of bad luck for breaking a mirror. 

THREE

In Christianity, the holy trinity is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The philosopher Plato saw three as the symbol of the triangle – a fundamental shape which he believed the world was built of.

In China, three is also significant because it sounds like the word ‘birth’ (‘shēng’) and represents three important stages in life – birth, marriage and death.

Fairy tales are also chock-a-block with the digit (three wishes, three little pigs, three bears… the list goes on).

EIGHT

Eight is associated with paradise and is symbolic with infinity. Muslims believe that there are eight paradises, and in Babylonian myth, the gods lived in an eight realm.

In Buddhism, eight is a lucky number – possibly because of eight traditional good luck omens, or because lotuses, which are a lucky symbol, have eight petals.

FOUR

Four represents the order of the universe. There are four elements, four seasons and four points of the compass.

In China, four is unlucky because the word for four sounds like the word for death (‘sǐ’).

FIVE

Five is a sacred number in Islam; the five Pillars of Islam are declaration of faith, prayer, fasting during Ramadan, giving alms, and making pilgrimage to Mecca. Prayers are said five times every day and there are also five law-giving prophets.

React Now

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz