Do you know any formal synonym words/expressions of "being good with numbers"?

I can think of expressions such as "numerical literacy", but they do not mean exactly the same.

Thank you.


4 Answers 4


If you mean the direct complement to literacy, it is numeracy
It does not convey a sense of 'great skill' but basic, essential comprehension of the concepts involved.

After comments
As far as I'm aware, there is no distinct word between 'numeracy' & 'mathematician'. There are only comparatives - basic, skilled, low, high, etc.

  • Literacy is exactly the same. It means you can read & write to a basic level. It does not mean you have the skillset to become a grammarian or famous author. Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 11:09
  • I'm pretty sure there isn't one between 'numerate' & 'mathematician'. Everything else will just be a comparative of some sort, high, low, strong, weak etc. Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 11:31
  • btw, this isn't the first time I have given this one considered thought. I happen to be particularly poor at anything arithmetical [yes, I've heard all the jokes, shoes & socks off to count to more than 10, etc etc], whilst also being able to pass the entrance exam for MENSA [go figure]. I decided many years ago on an explanation that would only be understood by those of higher literacy themselves. "I may be highly literate, but I'm unfortunately almost innumerable." [followed by a puzzled look or polite laughter, depending… Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 11:43

Just use an adverb:

Highly numerate.

There is a distinction between being highly numerate, and being good at mathematics. Many mathematicians are good at solving maths problems, but don't do complex calculations much.

John worked as an accountant from 1943 to 1975. He didn't have a calculator or computer, so he was highly numerate.


If you were describing a person, you might say that they were mathematically inclined, which would mean they have a natural talent or interest in mathematics. The noun form would be "mathematical inclination," but that is much less commonly used.

  • PS2: Doesn't "inclination" imply "interest" rather than "ability"? "Being good" conveys the meaning of ability.
    – billeck
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 15:29
  • @billeck it could mean either, especially in the case of "mathematically/artistically/etc inclined." Although usually it means that the person has both interest and ability, rather than just ability. See also {Oxford Learners Dictionary](oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/english/…) definition 2, at the example sentences.
    – Esther
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 15:42
  • apparently "numerically inclined" is also a thing, but I've only just seen it now. I'd imagine most (all?) native speakers would understand what it means even if they've never heard the phrase before, but it does usually imply at least a bit of interest in addition to ability.
    – Esther
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 15:45

"Numerate" means having the ability to understand and work with numbers.

The opposite of this is innumerate, meaning the inability in the same area. This is comparable with literate and illiterate, which mean respectively that you can, or cannot read.

Note though, that 'numerate' merely means you have the ability, not that you are especially gifted. You could reason that most people are literate, meaning they can read, but they may not read to the standard of a professional newsreader, for example.

The word 'superliterate', meaning exceptionally literate, appears in some dictionaries, although not the most scholarly ones I normally rely on. However, I can see the word, along with 'superliteracy' used in what I would consider scholarly documents on the website of the Modern Language Association, as well as in various publications. Logically, someone who is exceptionally numerate could be supernumerate.

  • Thank you. According to dictionaries, "numerate" seems a chiefly British English word. Is it a bad idea to use it in formal written American English?
    – billeck
    Commented Nov 26, 2022 at 10:20
  • @billeck I don't know that it is chiefly British - it can be found in Webster's dictionary, which is foremost a US English dictionary, and makes no mention of it being British English. It is difficult to establish from a search exactly how much it has been used in American publications due to the identically spelled verb meaning 'to add up', but Google Books does return a few results for "be numerate" and "is numerate" in US English publications. Sometimes it is good to introduce your audience to a new word!
    – Astralbee
    Commented Nov 26, 2022 at 14:51

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