The history of zero
0 (zero) is both a number and thenumerical digit used to represent that number in numerals. It fulfills a central role in mathematics as the additive identity of the integers, real numbers, and many other algebraic structures. As a digit, 0 is used as a placeholder in place value systems. In the English language, 0 may be called zero, nought or (US)naught , nil, or — in contexts where at least one adjacent digit distinguishes it from the letter "O" — oh or o . Informal or slang terms for zero include zilch and zip. Ought or aught has also been used historically.
The word zero came via French zéro from Venetian zero, which (together with cypher) came via Italian zefiro from Arabic, ṣafira = "it was empty", ṣifr = "zero", "nothing". The first known English use was in 1598.
In AD 976 the Persian encyclopedist Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Khwarizmi remarked that if, in a calculation, no number appears in the place of tens, then a little circle should be used "to keep the rows". This circle was called ṣifr, "empty" in Arabic language. That was the earliest mention of the name ṣifr that eventually became zero.
The Italian mathematician Fibonacci (c.1170–1250), who grew up in North Africa and is credited with introducing the decimal system to Europe, used the term zephyrum. This became zefiro in Italian, which was contracted to zero in Venetian.
As the decimal zero and its new mathematics spread from the Arabic world to Europe in the Middle Ages, words derived fromṣifr and zephyrus came to refer to calculation, as well as to privileged knowledge and secret codes.
There are different words used for the number or concept of zero depending on the context. For the simple notion of lacking, the words nothing and none are often used, while nought, naught and aught are archaic and poetic forms with the same meaning. Several sports have specific words for zero, such as nil in football, love in tennis and a duck in cricket. In...