- The word “twelve” is from the old English twelf, literally “two left” (over 10).i
- As early as 1500 B.C., the ancient Egyptians developed a sundial that was calibrated to divide the interval between sunrise and sunset into 12 parts. This system reflects their use of a duodecimal system. They used this system because it reflects the 12 lunar cycles in a year. They may also have used 12 because of the number of finger joints on each hand: three on each of the four fingers excluding the thumb, which made it easy to count to 12.e
- Hipparchus, an Greek astronomer, proposed dividing the day into 24 equinoctial hours, based on 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness observed on equinox days. However, hours of fixed length became widespread only with the advent of mechanical clocks in Europe in the 14th century.e
- In geometry, a circle is replete with subsets and supersets of 12 (a 360° circle has 30 sets of 12).g
The number 12 is the basis of many common measurements
- In the United States, typically 12 people are appointed to sit on a jury for felony trials.a
- A carpenter’s ruler has 12 subdivisions, pharmacists and jewelers use the 12-ounce pound, grocers use 12 eggs in a dozen, and minters divide shillings into 12 pence.a
- Alcoholics Anonymous has 12 steps, 12 traditions, and 12 concepts for world service. Other 12-step programs include Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA), Heroine Anonymous, Narcotic Anonymous, and Overeaters Anonymous, to name a few.a
- The basis for ancient Roman law was the Lex Duodecim Tabularum, or The Twelve Tables.d
- In the color wheel, there are 12 basic hues: three primary colors, three secondary colors, and six tertiary colors.g
- The United States of America is divided into 12 Federal Reserve Districts (Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco).g
- The Dozenal Society of America is a nonprofit society that promotes using base 12 in calculations, mathematics, weights, and measures.a
A person can easily count the three segments on each finger to make 12
- While most people are used to counting to 10 with their fingers, dozenalists (people who advocate using 12 as the basis of our counting system) note that each finger actually consists of three parts. Using the thumb as a pointer, a person can easily count the three segments on each finger to make 12. Using this system, both hands (not counting the thumbs) give us the number 24.a
- The Babylonians split the heavens into 12 equal sections, one for each lunar month. Scholars note that Judaism appropriated the number 12 from the Babylonians and divided their own human communities according to 12. Specifically, in the Old Testament, Jacob had 12 sons, who created the 12 tribes of Israel.a
- Christianity appropriated the number 12 from Judaism (which had picked it up from the ancient Babylonians). Specifically, Jesus had 12 apostles in the New Testament, which represented the 12 tribes of Israel.a
- Some scholars note that the 12 tribes of Israel is a symbolic reference to the 12 signs of the zodiac in Babylonian astrology and/or the 12 disciples of the pagan god Mithras.a
- In the Qur’an, God appoints 12 leaders over the people of Israel and divides Israel into 12 tribes. When the 12 people ask for water, Moses strikes a rock with his staff, and 12 rivers spring from the rock. Consequently, each tribe “knew where to get its own water.”a
- The number 12’s significance saturated Western civilization, especially through Europe, as Christianity spread from the Mediterranean into Europe and then into the West.j
- Non-godly religions, such as Buddhism, also revere the number 12. For example, Buddhists believe that life is composed of 12 stages, which together keep the wheel of life turning.c
- The ancient Zoroastrians believed in 12 divinities and observed a 360-day calendar of 12 months. Their holy book, the Menok I xrat says “twelve commanders on the side of light fight against evil in the fate of the world.”c
- Both the Western Zodiac and the Chinese Zodiac each have 12 signs.d
- January 5th is the 12th Day of Christmas. The 12 days of Christmas are known as Christmas Tide and the coming of Epiphany, which is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ.f
- The number 12 can be understood in at least four different ways: 1) as a numeral, 2) as a number-word, 3) as a concept in our minds, and 4) as a property possessed by every collection of 12 objects.g
According to Arthurian legend, 12 knights sat at the round table
- King Arthur’s roundtable had 12 knights plus himself.f
- In ancient Greece, the Twelve Olympians were the main gods of the pantheon.
- The number 12 is often found in the human body: there are 12 cranial nerves, 12 ribs on the average human body, and 12 systems of the human body (cardiovascular, digestive, etc.). Additionally, the weight of blood is about 1/12 of our body.b
- Twelve is the largest number that has just one syllable.b
- On the 12th day of the Christmas, the gift was 12 drummers drumming. Some scholars suggest that the drummers represent the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostle’s creed.d
- The number 12—along with 3, 4, 7, and 10—are highly symbolic in the Bible. According to many Biblical scholars, the number 12 indicates totality and represents the perfect government foundation and the completeness of the nation of Israel.h
- The first recorded words of Jesus occurred when he was 12 years old.d
- The Beatles released 12 studio albums.f
- Twelve is a composite number (meaning it is not a prime number) and the smallest number with exactly six divisors.g
- Because the number 12 has so many factors for being such a low number and is one of the lowest easily divisible numbers, it is a highly practical and respected number. In contrast, the number 10 has 2 only two factors (10 and 2), which means it is harder to divide and to use.g
- The ancient Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras taught the number 12 had divine, mystical meanings.b
- The ancient Sumerian government was always comprised of 12 people.b
- Twelve men have walked on the moon.f
Football and soccer fans have been referred to as the 12th player
- In America, both soccer and football fans have been referred to as the 12th player because of the support they give to the 11 players on the field.f
- The name of the duodenum is a Latin word meaning 12. It is the first part of the small intestine and is about 12 inches long. In Dutch, the name is twaalfvingerige darm, meaning 12-finger bowel.b
- On the Beaufort wind scale, Force 12 is the maximum wind speed of a hurricane.b
- Movies and literature that reference the number 12 are the following: The Dirty Dozen, Cheaper by the Dozen, 12 Monkeys, Ocean’s Twelve, Twelve, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Twelfth Night,and 12 Angry Men.g
- In Hindu Shaivism, there are 12 Jyotirlingas, which are devotional objects representing the god Shiva.c
- Homer’s The Aenid, Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Illych, and Milton’s Paradise Lost are each divided into 12 sections.g
- In Hinduism, Purna Kumbh Mela (a mass pilgrimage of faith) is celebrated every 12 years. They also believe it takes 12 years of discipline to change a habit. Mantras, japas, and pranayamas are also practiced in multiples of 12.c
The number 12 pervades the Bible
- The number 12 is mentioned 189 times in the Bible. The Book of Revelationalone has 22 references to it.d
- According to the Bible, the New Jerusalem (or the City of Heaven) will have walls 144 cubits thick, which is symbolic of the 12 tribes and 12 apostles.j
- The Bible describes the City of Heaven as having three gates in each corner, making 12 in all. They will be made of pearls—which gives us the phrase “the pearly gates.”j
- In the Bible, the Tree of Life inside the City of Heaven yields 12 different kinds of fruit.j
- The Bible’s Book of Daniel has 12 chapters. In 12:12 he says, “Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.” Some Biblical scholars note that 1 + 3 + 3 + 5 = 12.j
- After Jesus was finished feeding the 5,000 on the Mount of Beatitudes, his disciples gathered 12 basketfuls of leftovers.j
- According to the Bible, when the Tribulation begins, Christians will have already been raptured to heaven to spare them the trauma and horrors. According to some religions, 144,000 people—12,000 from each tribe of Israel—will be converted to Christianity and die as martyrs under the reign of the Antichrist.j
- Abraham’s sons, Isaac and Ishmael, each had 12 sons. Additionally, in Norse mythology, the god Odin had 12 sons.c
Silk is the traditional gift for a 12-year anniversary
- A traditional gift for a 12th wedding anniversary is silk, such as silk pajamas, silk tie, or silk boxers.b
- The Ancient Hindus revered the number 12. It was common practice for a boy from a religious home to leave at the age of 12 and live for 12 yeas with a guru or teacher.c
- A 12-sided polygon is called a dodecagon. A 12-faced polyhedron is a dodecahedron. A group of 12 things is called duodecad.b
- The Hadith of the Twelve Successors of Muhammad is a famous hadith in Islam. Here, Muhammad describes the 12 Muslim rulers succeeding him.c
- Ancient religions such as the Gnostics describe the 12 apostles of the pagan god Mithras to be symbolic of the waning and waxing sun throughout the year.c
-- Posted May 12, 2014
a “About Us.” The Dozenal Society of America. 2014. Accessed: March 26, 2014.
b Andrews, Frank Emerson. 1935. New Numbers: How Acceptance of a Duodecimal (12) Base Would Simplify Mathematics. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace, and Company.
c Crabtree, Vexen. “The Divine Number 12.” Human Religions. September 5, 2007. Accessed: March 26, 2014.
d Jervell, Jacob. 1996. The Theology of the Acts of the Apostles. New York, NY:Cambridge University Press.
e Lombardi, Michael A. “Why Is a Minute Divided into 60 Seconds, an Hour into 60 Minutes, Yet There Are Only 24 Hours in a Day?” Scientific America. March 5, 2007. Accessed: March 26, 2014.
f Mills, Scott. “12-12-12: Twelve Random Facts about the Number 12 (Revisited).” KKYR. December 12, 2012. Accessed: March 26, 2014.
g Tammet, Daniel. 2012. Thinking in Numbers: On Life, Love, Meaning, and Math. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
h “Top 12 Significant Numbers in Biblical Numerology.” Listverse. September 20, 2012. Accessed: March 26, 2014.
i “Twelve.” Online Etymology Dictionary. 2014. Accessed: March 26, 2014.
j “What’s the Historical Significance of the Number 12?” CBC News. December 12, 2012. Accessed: March 26, 2014.