Numbers play an important role in our lives. We use them for counting, measuring, labeling, and more. However, throughout history certain numbers have been viewed as unlucky or inauspicious. These “unlucky numbers” are associated with bad omens, misfortune, and even danger. But why are some numbers considered unlucky, and what meaning and symbolism have people assigned to them? This article will explore the origins and cultural significance of unlucky numbers.

Notable Unlucky Numbers Around the World

Number 13

Number 13
Number 13
  • Number 13 is likely the most universally feared number in the West. This fear of the number 13 is known as “triskaidekaphobia”.
  • The number 13 has been considered unlucky for centuries. There are a few theories as to why this is:
  • There were 13 people at the Last Supper the night before Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday (Friday the 13th)
  • 13 is seen as an irregular number since it is prime and comes after the more complete 12 (there are 12 months, zodiac signs, etc)
  • Due to the fear of 13, many buildings skip labeling the 13th floor, airlines often do not have a 13th row, and people try to avoid important events falling on the 13th day of the month.

Number 4

  • In Chinese culture, 4 is considered very unlucky since it sounds similar to the word for “death” in Mandarin and Cantonese.
  • Things like phone numbers, building floors, IDs will often skip the number 4.
  • In China, gifts should not be given in sets of 4, as it can be seen as wishing death upon someone. Sets of 8 are lucky, however.

Number 17

  • In Italy, 17 is seen as the most unlucky number, likely due to the Roman numeral XVII being an anagram of the Latin word VIXI meaning “I have lived”, the use of the past tense implying death.
  • Italians will avoid 17 in addresses, phone numbers, ids, etc when possible.

How to Use Unlucky Numbers

How to Use Unlucky Numbers
How to Use Unlucky Numbers

While some people may actively avoid unlucky numbers, others may use them in a more playful or superstitious manner. Here are a few ways unlucky numbers are used:

  • Lucky Charms

  • Some people believe that carrying a lucky charm with an unlucky number on it can ward off bad luck.
  • For example, a keychain with the number 13 on it may be seen as a way to protect against the negative connotations of the number.
  • Lottery Numbers

  • Interestingly, some people will actually choose to play unlucky numbers in the lottery, believing that they may have a higher chance of winning since others may avoid those numbers.
  • In fact, the number 13 is one of the most commonly played numbers in the lottery.
  • Reverse Psychology

  • Some people may use unlucky numbers as a form of reverse psychology, believing that by embracing the number, they can turn its negative energy into positive outcomes.
  • For example, someone may purposely choose to live on the 13th floor or get married on Friday the 13th as a way to challenge the superstition and prove it wrong.

Examples of Unlucky Numbers in Pop Culture

Unlucky numbers have also made their way into popular culture, often being portrayed as ominous or foreboding symbols. Here are a few examples:

  • Horror Movies

  • Many horror movies have incorporated unlucky numbers into their titles or plotlines.
  • The movie “Friday the 13th” is a prime example, using both the date and the number 13 in its title.
  • Other notable examples include “The Omen” (666), “The Number 23”, and “The Sixth Sense”.
  • Sports

  • In sports, certain numbers are considered unlucky and players may try to avoid wearing them.
  • For example, in basketball, the number 13 is often avoided by players and in soccer, the number 17 is seen as unlucky.
  • Music

  • Some musicians have also incorporated unlucky numbers into their work.
  • The band Maroon 5 has a song titled “Lucky Strike” which references the number 13 in its lyrics.
  • The rock band Black Sabbath released an album titled “13” in 2013, playing on the superstition surrounding the number.

Comparing Unlucky Numbers Across Cultures

While some unlucky numbers may be universal, others are specific to certain cultures. Here are a few examples of how different cultures view unlucky numbers:

  • Number 4 vs Number 13

  • Number 4 vs Number 13
    Number 4 vs Number 13
  • As mentioned earlier, the number 4 is considered unlucky in Chinese culture, while the number 13 is feared in Western culture.
  • This shows that cultural beliefs and superstitions can greatly influence the perception of numbers.
  • Number 7

  • In many Western cultures, the number 7 is seen as lucky, often associated with good fortune and perfection.
  • However, in some parts of Africa and Asia, the number 7 is seen as unlucky, representing death and destruction.
  • Number 8

  • In Chinese culture, the number 8 is considered extremely lucky, symbolizing prosperity and success.
  • In contrast, in India, the number 8 is seen as unlucky, representing destruction and chaos.

Advice for Dealing with Unlucky Numbers

While it may be tempting to completely avoid unlucky numbers, it’s important to remember that they are simply a product of cultural beliefs and superstitions. Here are a few tips for dealing with unlucky numbers:

  • Educate Yourself

  • Take the time to learn about the origins and cultural significance of unlucky numbers.
  • By understanding where these beliefs come from, you can make informed decisions about how to approach them.
  • Don’t Let Fear Control You

  • It’s important not to let fear of unlucky numbers control your life.
  • While it’s okay to acknowledge and respect cultural beliefs, it’s also important to not let them dictate your actions.
  • Create Your Own Luck

  • Ultimately, luck is what you make of it.
  • Instead of relying on superstitions and lucky charms, focus on creating your own luck through hard work, determination, and a positive mindset.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any cultures that do not have unlucky numbers?

Yes, some cultures do not assign any meaning or significance to certain numbers. For example, in Japan, the number 4 is not seen as unlucky.

Can unlucky numbers change over time?

Yes, the perception of unlucky numbers can change over time as cultural beliefs and superstitions evolve.

Is there any scientific evidence to support the concept of unlucky numbers?

No, the idea of unlucky numbers is based on cultural beliefs and superstitions rather than scientific evidence.

Are there any lucky numbers?

Yes, many cultures also have lucky numbers that are associated with good fortune and success.

Can unlucky numbers bring actual bad luck?

No, unlucky numbers do not have any inherent power to bring bad luck. However, if someone strongly believes in their negative connotations, it may affect their mindset and behavior, potentially leading to self-fulfilling prophecies.


In conclusion, unlucky numbers are a product of cultural beliefs and superstitions. While some numbers may be universally feared, others are specific to certain cultures. It’s important to educate ourselves about the origins and significance of these numbers, but also not let them control our lives. Ultimately, we create our own luck through our actions and mindset. So whether you believe in unlucky numbers or not, remember to stay positive and make your own luck.

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Derek Le, the passionate founder of Numerology Hub, is a respected figure in the numerology community. With a profound understanding of numerology's applications and significance, Derek is dedicated to providing invaluable insights and resources for self-discovery and personal growth. His multicultural background and love for badminton bring a unique perspective to his work, ensuring accessible and relatable content that empowers individuals to harness the transformative power of numerology.

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