In

mathematics
Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and their changes (cal ...

, the natural numbers are those number
A number is a mathematical object
A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics.
In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduct ...

s used for counting (as in "there are ''six'' coins on the table") and ordering
Order or ORDER or Orders may refer to:
* Orderliness, a desire for organization
* Categorization, the process in which ideas and objects are recognized, differentiated, and understood
* Heterarchy, a system of organization wherein the elements hav ...

(as in "this is the ''third'' largest city in the country"). In common mathematical terminology, words colloquially used for counting are "cardinal numbers
150px, Aleph null, the smallest infinite cardinal
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and ca ...

", and words used for ordering are "ordinal numbers
In set theory
Set theory is the branch of that studies , which can be informally described as collections of objects. Although objects of any kind can be collected into a set, set theory, as a branch of , is mostly concerned with those that ...

". The natural numbers can, at times, appear as a convenient set of codes (labels or "names"), that is, as what linguists call nominal number
Nominal numbers are categorical, which means that these are numerals used as labels to identify items uniquely. Importantly, the actual values of the number
A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and ...

s, forgoing many or all of the properties of being a number in a mathematical sense.
Some definitions, including the standard ISO 80000-2
ISO 80000 or IEC 80000 is an international standard introducing the International System of Quantities (ISQ).
It was developed and promulgated jointly by the International Organization for Standardization
The International Organization for ...

, begin the natural numbers with , corresponding to the non-negative integers , whereas others start with , corresponding to the positive integers Texts that exclude zero from the natural numbers sometimes refer to the natural numbers together with zero as the whole numbers, while in other writings, that term is used instead for the integers (including negative integers).
The natural numbers are a basis from which many other number sets may be built by extension: the integer
An integer (from the Latin
Latin (, or , ) is a classical language
A classical language is a language
A language is a structured system of communication
Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to ...

s, by including (if not yet in) the neutral element
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It h ...

0 and an additive inverse
In mathematics, the additive inverse of a number
A number is a mathematical object
A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics.
In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be ...

() for each nonzero natural number ; the rational number
In mathematics, a rational number is a number that can be expressed as the quotient or fraction (mathematics), fraction of two integers, a numerator and a non-zero denominator . For example, is a rational number, as is every integer (e.g. ) ...

s, by including a multiplicative inverse
Image:Hyperbola one over x.svg, thumbnail, 300px, alt=Graph showing the diagrammatic representation of limits approaching infinity, The reciprocal function: . For every ''x'' except 0, ''y'' represents its multiplicative inverse. The graph forms a r ...

($\backslash tfrac\; 1n$) for each nonzero integer (and also the product of these inverses by integers); the real number
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (), and quantities and their changes ( and ). There is no g ...

s by including with the rationals the limits
Limit or Limits may refer to:
Arts and media
* Limit (music)
In music theory, limit or harmonic limit is a way of characterizing the harmony found in a piece or genre (music), genre of music, or the harmonies that can be made using a particular ...

of (converging) Cauchy sequences
In mathematics, a Cauchy sequence (; ), named after Augustin-Louis Cauchy, is a sequence whose Element (mathematics), elements become arbitrarily close to each other as the sequence progresses.Lang, Serge (1993), Algebra (Third ed.), Reading, Mass ...

of rationals; the complex number
In mathematics, a complex number is an element of a number system that contains the real numbers and a specific element denoted , called the imaginary unit, and satisfying the equation . Moreover, every complex number can be expressed in the for ...

s, by including with the real numbers the unresolved square root of minus one (and also the sums and products thereof); and so on. This chain of extensions make the natural numbers canonically embedded (identified) in the other number systems.
Properties of the natural numbers, such as divisibility
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). ...

and the distribution of prime number
A prime number (or a prime) is a natural number greater than 1 that is not a Product (mathematics), product of two smaller natural numbers. A natural number greater than 1 that is not prime is called a composite number. For example, 5 is prime ...

s, are studied in number theory
Number theory (or arithmetic or higher arithmetic in older usage) is a branch of devoted primarily to the study of the s and . German mathematician (1777–1855) said, "Mathematics is the queen of the sciences—and number theory is the queen ...

. Problems concerning counting and ordering, such as partitioning and enumerations
An enumeration is a complete, ordered listing of all the items in a collection. The term is commonly used in mathematics and computer science to refer to a listing of all of the element (mathematics), elements of a Set (mathematics), set. The prec ...

, are studied in combinatorics
Combinatorics is an area of mathematics
Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geom ...

.
In common language, particularly in primary school education, natural numbers may be called counting numbers to intuitively exclude the negative integers and zero, and also to contrast the discreteness of counting
Counting is the process of determining the number of Element (mathematics), elements of a finite set of objects, i.e., determining the size (mathematics), size of a set. The traditional way of counting consists of continually increasing a (mental ...

to the continuity of measurement
Measurement is the quantification (science), quantification of variable and attribute (research), attributes of an object or event, which can be used to compare with other objects or events. The scope and application of measurement are dependen ...

—a hallmark characteristic of real number
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (), and quantities and their changes ( and ). There is no g ...

s.
History

Ancient roots

The most primitive method of representing a natural number is to put down a mark for each object. Later, a set of objects could be tested for equality, excess or shortage—by striking out a mark and removing an object from the set. The first major advance in abstraction was the use ofnumerals
A numeral is a figure, symbol, or group of figures or symbols denoting a number. It may refer to:
* Numeral system used in mathematics
* Numeral (linguistics), a part of speech denoting numbers (e.g. ''one'' and ''first'' in English)
* Numerical di ...

to represent numbers. This allowed systems to be developed for recording large numbers. The ancient Egyptians
Egyptians ( arz, المصريين, ; cop, ⲣⲉⲙⲛ̀ⲭⲏⲙⲓ, remenkhēmi) are an ethnic group of people originating from the country of Egypt
Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a spanning t ...

developed a powerful system of numerals with distinct hieroglyphs
A hieroglyph (Greek
Greek may refer to:
Greece
Anything of, from, or related to Greece
Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million ...

for 1, 10, and all powers of 10 up to over 1 million. A stone carving from Karnak
The Karnak Temple Complex, commonly known as Karnak (, which was originally derived from ar, خورنق ''Khurnaq'' "fortified village"), comprises a vast mix of decayed temples
A temple (from the Latin
Latin (, or , ) is a classical lan ...

, dating back from around 1500 BCE and now at the Louvre
The Louvre ( ), or the Louvre Museum ( ), is the world's most-visited museum, and a historic landmark in Paris
Paris () is the Capital city, capital and List of communes in France with over 20,000 inhabitants, most populous city of Fr ...

in Paris, depicts 276 as 2 hundreds, 7 tens, and 6 ones; and similarly for the number 4,622. The Babylonia
Babylonia () was an and based in central-southern which was part of Ancient Persia (present-day and ). A small -ruled state emerged in 1894 BCE, which contained the minor administrative town of . It was merely a small provincial town dur ...

ns had a place-value
Positional notation (or place-value notation, or positional numeral system) denotes usually the extension to any radix, base of the Hindu–Arabic numeral system (or decimal, decimal system). More generally, a positional system is a numeral system ...

system based essentially on the numerals for 1 and 10, using base sixty, so that the symbol for sixty was the same as the symbol for one—its value being determined from context.
A much later advance was the development of the idea that can be considered as a number, with its own numeral. The use of a 0 digit
Digit may refer to:
Mathematics and science
* Numerical digit, as used in mathematics or computer science
** Arabic numerals, the most common modern representation of numerical digits
* Digit (anatomy), one of several most distal parts of a limb ...

in place-value notation (within other numbers) dates back as early as 700 BCE by the Babylonians, who omitted such a digit when it would have been the last symbol in the number. The Olmec
The Olmecs () were the earliest known major Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a historical and important region
In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characterist ...

and Maya civilization
The Maya civilization () was a Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a historical and important region
In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics ( physical geography), human impact characteristics ( human ...

s used 0 as a separate number as early as the , but this usage did not spread beyond Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a historical and important region
In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and the ...

. The use of a numeral 0 in modern times originated with the Indian mathematician Brahmagupta
Brahmagupta ( – ) was an Indian Indian mathematics, mathematician and Indian astronomy, astronomer. He is the author of two early works on mathematics and astronomy: the ''Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta'' (BSS, "correctly established Siddhanta, doc ...

in 628 CE. However, 0 had been used as a number in the medieval computus
As a moveable feast, the date of Easter is determined in each year through a calculation known as ''computus'' (Latin for 'computation'). Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, which is the first full moon on or af ...

(the calculation of the date of Easter), beginning with Dionysius Exiguus
Dionysius Exiguus (Latin
Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republ ...

in 525 CE, without being denoted by a numeral (standard Roman numerals
Roman numerals are a that originated in and remained the usual way of writing numbers throughout Europe well into the . Numbers in this system are represented by combinations of letters from the . Modern style uses seven symbols, each with a ...

do not have a symbol for 0). Instead, ''nulla'' (or the genitive form ''nullae'') from ''nullus'', the Latin word for "none", was employed to denote a 0 value.
The first systematic study of numbers as abstraction
Abstraction in its main sense is a conceptual process where general rules
Rule or ruling may refer to:
Human activity
* The exercise of political
Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, mak ...

s is usually credited to the Greek#REDIRECT Greek
Greek may refer to:
Greece
Anything of, from, or related to Greece
Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...

philosophers Pythagoras
Pythagoras of Samos, or simply ; in Ionian Greek () was an ancient Ionians, Ionian Ancient Greek philosophy, Greek philosopher and the eponymous founder of Pythagoreanism. His political and religious teachings were well known in Magna Graec ...

and Archimedes
Archimedes of Syracuse (; grc, ; ; ) was a Greek#REDIRECT Greek
Greek may refer to:
Greece
Anything of, from, or related to Greece
Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Eu ...

. Some Greek mathematicians treated the number 1 differently than larger numbers, sometimes even not as a number at all. Euclid
Euclid (; grc-gre, Εὐκλείδης
Euclid (; grc, Εὐκλείδης – ''Eukleídēs'', ; fl. 300 BC), sometimes called Euclid of Alexandria to distinguish him from Euclid of Megara, was a Greek mathematician, often referre ...

, for example, defined a unit first and then a number as a multitude of units, thus by his definition, a unit is not a number and there are no unique numbers (e.g., any two units from indefinitely many units is a 2).
Independent studies on numbers also occurred at around the same time in India
India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi
Hindi (Devanagari: , हिंदी, ISO 15919, ISO: ), or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi (Devanagari: , ISO 15919, ISO: ), is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in Hindi Belt, ...

, China, and Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a historical and important region
In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and the ...

.
Modern definitions

In 19th century Europe, there was mathematical and philosophical discussion about the exact nature of the natural numbers. A school of Naturalism stated that the natural numbers were a direct consequence of the human psyche.Henri Poincaré
Jules Henri Poincaré ( S: stress final syllable ; 29 April 1854 – 17 July 1912) was a French
French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to:
* Something of, from, or related to France
France (), officially the French Repu ...

was one of its advocates, as was Leopold Kronecker
Leopold Kronecker (; 7 December 1823 – 29 December 1891) was a German mathematician
A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics a ...

, who summarized his belief as "God made the integers, all else is the work of man".
In opposition to the Naturalists, the constructivists saw a need to improve upon the logical rigor in the foundations of mathematics
Foundations of mathematics is the study of the philosophical
Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence
Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental r ...

. In the 1860s, Hermann Grassmann
Hermann Günther Grassmann (german: link=no, Graßmann, ; 15 April 1809 – 26 September 1877) was a German polymath, known in his day as a linguistics, linguist and now also as a mathematics, mathematician. He was also a physics, physicist, gener ...

suggested a recursive definition
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...

for natural numbers, thus stating they were not really natural—but a consequence of definitions. Later, two classes of such formal definitions were constructed; later still, they were shown to be equivalent in most practical applications.
Set-theoretical definitions of natural numbers were initiated by Frege Frege is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:
* Carola Frege (born 1965), German scholar
*Élodie Frégé, French singer and actress
*Gottlob Frege (1848 – 1925), German philosopher, logician, and mathematician.
* Livia Fre ...

. He initially defined a natural number as the class of all sets that are in one-to-one correspondence with a particular set. However, this definition turned out to lead to paradoxes, including Russell's paradox
In the foundations of mathematics
Foundations of mathematics is the study of the philosophical and logical and/or algorithmic basis of mathematics, or, in a broader sense, the mathematical investigation of what underlies the philosophical theori ...

. To avoid such paradoxes, the formalism was modified so that a natural number is defined as a particular set, and any set that can be put into one-to-one correspondence with that set is said to have that number of elements.
The second class of definitions was introduced by Charles Sanders Peirce
Charles Sanders Peirce ( ; September 10, 1839 – April 19, 1914) was an American philosopher, ian, mathematician and scientist who is sometimes known as "the father of ". He was known as a somewhat unusual character.
Educated as a chemist an ...

, refined by Richard Dedekind
Julius Wilhelm Richard Dedekind (6 October 1831 – 12 February 1916) was a German mathematician who made important contributions to abstract algebra (particularly ring theory
In algebra, ring theory is the study of ring (mathematics), rings ...

, and further explored by Giuseppe Peano
Giuseppe Peano (; ; 27 August 1858 – 20 April 1932) was an Italian mathematician
A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as ...

; this approach is now called Peano arithmetic
In mathematical logic, the Peano axioms, also known as the Dedekind–Peano axioms or the Peano postulates, are axioms for the natural numbers presented by the 19th century Italian people, Italian mathematician Giuseppe Peano. These axioms have been ...

. It is based on an axiomatization
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...

of the properties of ordinal number
In set theory
Set theory is the branch of that studies , which can be informally described as collections of objects. Although objects of any kind can be collected into a set, set theory, as a branch of , is mostly concerned with those that ...

s: each natural number has a successor and every non-zero natural number has a unique predecessor. Peano arithmetic is equiconsistent with several weak systems of set theory. One such system is with the axiom of infinity
In axiomatic set theory and the branches of mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, cha ...

replaced by its negation. Theorems that can be proved in ZFC but cannot be proved using the Peano Axioms include Goodstein's theorem
In mathematical logic
Mathematical logic, also called formal logic, is a subfield of mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (alg ...

.
With all these definitions, it is convenient to include 0 (corresponding to the empty set #REDIRECT Empty set #REDIRECT Empty set#REDIRECT Empty set
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry ...

) as a natural number. Including 0 is now the common convention among set theorists
Set, The Set, or SET may refer to:
Science, technology, and mathematics Mathematics
*Set (mathematics), a collection of distinct elements or members
*Category of sets, the category whose objects and morphisms are sets and total functions, respect ...

and logic
Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning. Informal logic seeks to characterize Validity (logic), valid arguments informally, for instance by listing varieties of fallacies. Formal logic represents statements and ar ...

ians. Other mathematicians also include 0, and computer languageComputer language is a formal language
In logic, mathematics, computer science, and linguistics, a formal language consists of string (computer science), words whose symbol (formal), letters are taken from an alphabet (computer science), alphabet ...

s often start from zero when enumerating items like and string- or array-elements. On the other hand, many mathematicians have kept the older tradition to take 1 to be the first natural number.
Notation

Mathematicians use or $\backslash mathbb\; N$ to refer to the set of all natural numbers. The existence of such a set is established inset theory
Set theory is the branch of mathematical logic that studies Set (mathematics), sets, which can be informally described as collections of objects. Although objects of any kind can be collected into a set, set theory, as a branch of mathematics, i ...

. Older texts have also occasionally employed as the symbol for this set.
Since different properties are customarily associated to the tokens and (e.g., neutral elements for addition and multiplications, respectively), it is important to know which version of ''natural numbers'' is employed in the case under consideration. This can be done by explanation in prose, by explicitly writing down the set, or by qualifying the generic identifier with a super- or subscript, for example, like this:
* Naturals without zero: $\backslash =\backslash mathbb^*=\; \backslash mathbb\; N^+=\backslash mathbb\_0\backslash smallsetminus\backslash \; =\; \backslash mathbb\_1$
* Naturals with zero: $\backslash ;\backslash =\backslash mathbb\_0=\backslash mathbb\; N^0=\backslash mathbb^*\backslash cup\backslash $
Alternatively, since the natural numbers naturally form a subset
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). ...

of the integer
An integer (from the Latin
Latin (, or , ) is a classical language
A classical language is a language
A language is a structured system of communication
Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to ...

s (often they may be referred to as the positive, or the non-negative integers, respectively.
To be unambiguous about whether 0 is included or not, sometimes a subscript (or superscript) "0" is added in the former case, and a superscript "" is added in the latter case:
:$\backslash \; =\; \backslash =\backslash mathbb\; Z^+=\; \backslash mathbb\_$
:$\backslash \; =\; \backslash =\backslash mathbb\; Z^\_=\backslash mathbb\_$
Properties

Addition

Given the set $\backslash mathbb$ of natural numbers and thesuccessor function
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...

$S\; \backslash colon\; \backslash mathbb\; \backslash to\; \backslash mathbb$ sending each natural number to the next one, one can define addition
Addition (usually signified by the plus symbol
The plus and minus signs, and , are mathematical symbol
A mathematical symbol is a figure or a combination of figures that is used to represent a mathematical object
A mathematical object is an ...

of natural numbers recursively by setting and for all , . Then is a commutative
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (), and quantities and their changes ( and ). There is no ge ...

monoid
In abstract algebra
In algebra, which is a broad division of mathematics, abstract algebra (occasionally called modern algebra) is the study of algebraic structures. Algebraic structures include group (mathematics), groups, ring (mathemati ...

with identity element
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and th ...

0. It is a free monoid In abstract algebra
In algebra, which is a broad division of mathematics, abstract algebra (occasionally called modern algebra) is the study of algebraic structures. Algebraic structures include group (mathematics), groups, ring (mathematics), r ...

on one generator. This commutative monoid satisfies the cancellation property
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...

, so it can be embedded in a group
A group is a number
A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be represented in language with ...

. The smallest group containing the natural numbers is the integer
An integer (from the Latin
Latin (, or , ) is a classical language
A classical language is a language
A language is a structured system of communication
Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to ...

s.
If 1 is defined as , then . That is, is simply the successor of .
Multiplication

Analogously, given that addition has been defined, amultiplication
Multiplication (often denoted by the cross symbol , by the mid-line dot operator , by juxtaposition, or, on computers, by an asterisk ) is one of the four Elementary arithmetic, elementary Operation (mathematics), mathematical operations ...

operator $\backslash times$ can be defined via and . This turns into a free commutative monoidIn abstract algebra, the free monoid on a Set (mathematics), set is the monoid whose elements are all the finite sequences (or strings) of zero or more elements from that set, with string concatenation as the monoid operation and with the unique sequ ...

with identity element 1; a generator set for this monoid is the set of prime number
A prime number (or a prime) is a natural number greater than 1 that is not a Product (mathematics), product of two smaller natural numbers. A natural number greater than 1 that is not prime is called a composite number. For example, 5 is prime ...

s.
Relationship between addition and multiplication

Addition and multiplication are compatible, which is expressed in thedistribution law
Distribution law or the Nernst's distribution law gives a generalisation which governs the distribution of a solute between two non miscible solvents. This law was first given by Nernst who studied the distribution of several solutes between differ ...

: . These properties of addition and multiplication make the natural numbers an instance of a commutative
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (), and quantities and their changes ( and ). There is no ge ...

semiring
In abstract algebra
In algebra, which is a broad division of mathematics, abstract algebra (occasionally called modern algebra) is the study of algebraic structures. Algebraic structures include group (mathematics), groups, ring (mathematics), ...

. Semirings are an algebraic generalization of the natural numbers where multiplication is not necessarily commutative. The lack of additive inverses, which is equivalent to the fact that is not closed under subtraction (that is, subtracting one natural from another does not always result in another natural), means that is ''not'' a ring; instead it is a semiring
In abstract algebra
In algebra, which is a broad division of mathematics, abstract algebra (occasionally called modern algebra) is the study of algebraic structures. Algebraic structures include group (mathematics), groups, ring (mathematics), ...

(also known as a ''rig'').
If the natural numbers are taken as "excluding 0", and "starting at 1", the definitions of + and × are as above, except that they begin with and .
Order

In this section, juxtaposed variables such as indicate the product , and the standardorder of operations
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and t ...

is assumed.
A total order
In mathematics, a total or linear order is a partial order in which any two elements are comparable. That is, a total order is a binary relation \leq on some Set (mathematics), set X, which satisfies the following for all a, b and c in X:
# a \ ...

on the natural numbers is defined by letting if and only if there exists another natural number where . This order is compatible with the arithmetical operations
Arithmetic (from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek
Greek may refer to:
Greece
Anything of, from, or related to Greece
Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is app ...

in the following sense: if , and are natural numbers and , then and .
An important property of the natural numbers is that they are well-order
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and ...

ed: every non-empty set of natural numbers has a least element. The rank among well-ordered sets is expressed by an ordinal number
In set theory
Set theory is the branch of that studies , which can be informally described as collections of objects. Although objects of any kind can be collected into a set, set theory, as a branch of , is mostly concerned with those that ...

; for the natural numbers, this is denoted as (omega).
Division

In this section, juxtaposed variables such as indicate the product , and the standardorder of operations
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and t ...

is assumed.
While it is in general not possible to divide one natural number by another and get a natural number as result, the procedure of ''division with remainder'' or Euclidean division
In arithmetic, Euclidean division – or division with remainder – is the process of division (mathematics), dividing one integer (the dividend) by another (the divisor), in a way that produces a quotient and a remainder smaller than the divisor ...

is available as a substitute: for any two natural numbers and with there are natural numbers and such that
:$a\; =\; bq\; +\; r\; \backslash text\; r\; <\; b.$
The number is called the ''quotient
In arithmetic
Arithmetic (from the Ancient Greek, Greek wikt:en:ἀριθμός#Ancient Greek, ἀριθμός ''arithmos'', 'number' and wikt:en:τική#Ancient Greek, τική wikt:en:τέχνη#Ancient Greek, έχνη ''tiké échne' ...

'' and is called the ''remainder
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...

'' of the division of by . The numbers and are uniquely determined by and . This Euclidean division is key to the several other properties (divisibility
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). ...

), algorithms (such as the Euclidean algorithm
In mathematics, the Euclidean algorithm,Some widely used textbooks, such as I. N. Herstein's ''Topics in Algebra'' and Serge Lang's ''Algebra'', use the term "Euclidean algorithm" to refer to Euclidean division or Euclid's algorithm, is an effi ...

), and ideas in number theory.
Algebraic properties satisfied by the natural numbers

The addition (+) and multiplication (×) operations on natural numbers as defined above have several algebraic properties: * Closure under addition and multiplication: for all natural numbers and , both and are natural numbers. *Associativity
In mathematics, the associative property is a property of some binary operations, which means that rearranging the parentheses in an expression will not change the result. In propositional logic, associativity is a Validity (logic), valid rule ...

: for all natural numbers , , and , and .
* Commutativity
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and ...

: for all natural numbers and , and .
* Existence of identity element
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and th ...

s: for every natural number ''a'', and .
* Distributivity
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...

of multiplication over addition for all natural numbers , , and , .
* No nonzero zero divisor
In abstract algebra
In algebra, which is a broad division of mathematics, abstract algebra (occasionally called modern algebra) is the study of algebraic structures. Algebraic structures include group (mathematics), groups, ring (mathematics), ...

s: if and are natural numbers such that , then or (or both).
Infinity

The set of natural numbers is aninfinite set
In set theory
illustrating the intersection (set theory), intersection of two set (mathematics), sets.
Set theory is a branch of mathematical logic that studies Set (mathematics), sets, which informally are collections of objects. Although any ...

. By definition, this kind of infinity
Infinity is that which is boundless, endless, or larger than any number
A number is a mathematical object
A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics.
In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything ...

is called countable infinity
In mathematics, a countable set is a Set (mathematics), set with the same cardinality (cardinal number, number of elements) as some subset of the set of natural numbers. A countable set is either a finite set or a countably infinite set. Whether f ...

. All sets that can be put into a bijective
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and ...

relation to the natural numbers are said to have this kind of infinity. This is also expressed by saying that the cardinal number
150px, Aleph null, the smallest infinite cardinal
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and ca ...

of the set is aleph-nought ().
Generalizations

Two important generalizations of natural numbers arise from the two uses of counting and ordering:cardinal number
150px, Aleph null, the smallest infinite cardinal
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and ca ...

s and ordinal number
In set theory
Set theory is the branch of that studies , which can be informally described as collections of objects. Although objects of any kind can be collected into a set, set theory, as a branch of , is mostly concerned with those that ...

s.
* A natural number can be used to express the size of a finite set; more precisely, a cardinal number is a measure for the size of a set, which is even suitable for infinite sets. This concept of "size" relies on maps between sets, such that two sets have the same size, exactly if there exists a bijection
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and ...

between them. The set of natural numbers itself, and any bijective image of it, is said to be ''countably infinite
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...

'' and to have cardinality
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...

aleph-null
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...

().
* Natural numbers are also used as linguistic ordinal numbers: "first", "second", "third", and so forth. This way they can be assigned to the elements of a totally ordered finite set, and also to the elements of any well-order
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and ...

ed countably infinite set. This assignment can be generalized to general well-orderings with a cardinality beyond countability, to yield the ordinal numbers. An ordinal number may also be used to describe the notion of "size" for a well-ordered set, in a sense different from cardinality: if there is an order isomorphismIn the mathematical field of order theory
Order theory is a branch of mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (g ...

(more than a bijection!) between two well-ordered sets, they have the same ordinal number. The first ordinal number that is not a natural number is expressed as ; this is also the ordinal number of the set of natural numbers itself.
The least ordinal of cardinality (that is, the initial ordinal
The von Neumann cardinal assignment is a cardinal assignment which uses ordinal number
In set theory, an ordinal number, or ordinal, is one generalization of the concept of a natural number that is used to describe a way to arrange a (possibly ...

of ) is but many well-ordered sets with cardinal number have an ordinal number greater than .
For finite
Finite is the opposite of Infinity, infinite. It may refer to:
* Finite number (disambiguation)
* Finite set, a set whose cardinality (number of elements) is some natural number
* Finite verb, a verb form that has a subject, usually being inflected ...

well-ordered sets, there is a one-to-one correspondence between ordinal and cardinal numbers; therefore they can both be expressed by the same natural number, the number of elements of the set. This number can also be used to describe the position of an element in a larger finite, or an infinite, sequence
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and t ...

.
A countable non-standard model of arithmetic
In mathematical logic
Mathematical logic, also called formal logic, is a subfield of mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (al ...

satisfying the Peano Arithmetic (that is, the first-order Peano axioms) was developed by Skolem
Thoralf Albert Skolem (; 23 May 1887 – 23 March 1963) was a Norwegian mathematician who worked in mathematical logic
Mathematical logic is the study of formal logic within mathematics. Major subareas include model theory, proof theory, set ...

in 1933. The hypernaturalIn nonstandard analysis
The history of calculus is fraught with philosophical debates about the meaning and logical validity of fluxions or infinitesimal numbers. The standard way to resolve these debates is to define the operations of calculus ...

numbers are an uncountable model that can be constructed from the ordinary natural numbers via the ultrapower construction.
Georges Reeb used to claim provocatively that ''The naïve integers don't fill up'' . Other generalizations are discussed in the article on numbers.
Formal definitions

Peano axioms

Many properties of the natural numbers can be derived from the five Peano axioms: # 0 is a natural number. # Every natural number has a successor which is also a natural number. # 0 is not the successor of any natural number. # If the successor of $x$ equals the successor of $y$, then $x$ equals $y$. # The axiom of induction: If a statement is true of 0, and if the truth of that statement for a number implies its truth for the successor of that number, then the statement is true for every natural number. These are not the original axioms published by Peano, but are named in his honor. Some forms of the Peano axioms have 1 in place of 0. In ordinary arithmetic, the successor of $x$ is $x\; +\; 1$. Replacing axiom 5 by an axiom schema, one obtains a (weaker) first-order theory called ''Peano arithmetic
In mathematical logic, the Peano axioms, also known as the Dedekind–Peano axioms or the Peano postulates, are axioms for the natural numbers presented by the 19th century Italian people, Italian mathematician Giuseppe Peano. These axioms have been ...

''.
Constructions based on set theory

Von Neumann ordinals

In the area of mathematics calledset theory
Set theory is the branch of mathematical logic that studies Set (mathematics), sets, which can be informally described as collections of objects. Although objects of any kind can be collected into a set, set theory, as a branch of mathematics, i ...

, a specific construction due to John von Neumann attributes the idea to unpublished work of Zermelo in 1916 and several papers by von Neumann the 1920s. defines the natural numbers as follows:
* Set , the empty set #REDIRECT Empty set #REDIRECT Empty set#REDIRECT Empty set
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry ...

,
* Define for every set . is the successor of , and is called the successor function
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...

.
* By the axiom of infinity
In axiomatic set theory and the branches of mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, cha ...

, there exists a set which contains 0 and is closed under the successor function. Such sets are said to be ''inductive''. The intersection of all such inductive sets is defined to be the set of natural numbers. It can be checked that the set of natural numbers satisfies the Peano axioms.
* It follows that each natural number is equal to the set of all natural numbers less than it:
:*,
:*,
:*,
:*,
:*, etc.
With this definition, a natural number is a particular set with elements, and if and only if is a subset
In mathematics
Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). ...

of . The standard definition, now called definition of von Neumann ordinals, is: "each ordinal is the well-ordered set of all smaller ordinals."
Also, with this definition, different possible interpretations of notations like (-tuples versus mappings of into ) coincide.
Even if one finitism, does not accept the axiom of infinity and therefore cannot accept that the set of all natural numbers exists, it is still possible to define any one of these sets.
Zermelo ordinals

Although the standard construction is useful, it is not the only possible construction. Ernst Zermelo's construction goes as follows: * Set * Define , * It then follows that :*, :*, :*, :*, etc. :Each natural number is then equal to the set containing just the natural number preceding it. This is the definition of Zermelo ordinals. Unlike von Neumann's construction, the Zermelo ordinals do not account for infinite ordinals.See also

* Benacerraf's identification problem * Canonical representation of a positive integer * Countable set * Number#Classification for other number systems (rational, real, complex etc.) * Ordinal number * Set-theoretic definition of natural numbersNotes

References

Bibliography

* * * * ** ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * – English translation of .External links

* * {{Authority control Cardinal numbers Elementary mathematics Integers Number theory