What comes after primary, secondary, tertiary?

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Leeland's picture

A manager popped into my area today and asked this question. Oddly enough my brain immediately answered back quaternary and quinary. Which then caused the inevitable "how do you spell that?" question. A sticky note and a pen and he was running off with a cheerful grin on his face.

Of course then I started to wonder how the heck did I know the answer to that and even more importantly was I right?

To Google I did fly. Sure enough I was right. (Whew that manager will not be back with a frown or worse in his eye.) Unfortunately Google doesn't have a direct tie into my brain so I am still left wondering where the heck I picked up that odd bit of trivia from. Oh well some things are best left a mystery.

And for the record the progression is: 1st = primary, 2nd = secondary, 3rd = tertiary, 4th = quaternary, 5th = quinary, 6th = senary, 7th = septenary, 8th = octonary, 9th = nonary, 10th = denary, 12th = duodenary and 20th = vigenary. These come from the Latin roots. Maybe that was where I picked it up I did study Latin for a bit. Official reference can be found at: Ask Oxford's Ask the Experts (http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/aboutwords/primary?view=get). There is also an interesting group discussion of the whole thing in alt.usage.english.

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