I am confused with this one, and I have two questions about that

  1. What"s the difference between Zero and Nol? Is 'nol' is accepted in English?


  1. 1st First, 2nd Second, and what about Zero/Nol/0? Is Zero/Nol an ordinal or a cardinal number?

Thanks in advance

4 Answers 4


"Zero" is a number. English also has the words nil and null which are both from the same Indo-European source (I assume "nol" is the equivalent in some other language). Their meaning and usage are similar, but not identical, to that of "zero".

The ordinal number for zero is "zeroth". It is a valid word in English, and in some areas (such as math and programming) it is useful and common.

  • It is a word, and I customarily count: "Zeroth, First, Second, Third..." because I am unable to understand what "nonsensical" means. As any mathematician knows, the question is an infamous troll, for which I fell as if I just drove in from Modesto on an onion truck. I decline further feedings. Vade in Pace. Jul 28, 2016 at 4:14
  • 2
    It did take western mathematicians and philosophers many centuries to grasp that zero is a real number and is actually quite useful... Think about it some more and google "zeroth" to see areas where this "nonsense" makes lots of sense. Jul 28, 2016 at 4:20
  • 2
    The term zeroth patient (as well as patient zero) is a good example of zeroth. Jul 28, 2016 at 4:31
  • Isaac Asimov's famous "Laws of Robotics" were originally numbered First, Second, Third, but in a later story the robots discovered a more fundamental rule which was called the Zeroth Law. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Laws_of_Robotics (I personally always thought "Original" would have been more felicitous in that particular case, but it's a literary example of usage.)
    – 1006a
    Jul 28, 2016 at 6:55
  • 6
    @1006a Asimov was almost certainly alluding to the zeroth law of thermodynamics, which came about in exactly the same circumstances. Jul 28, 2016 at 7:23

Null is not a very common concept in common language because it means "nothing" in a way that is hard to fathom. Zero does mean nothing but it is still a definite number. Null is an absence of any value.

In English you might hear it used in the phrase "null and void" (which means something is invalid). The two words literally mean the same thing. Null is a void. A total absence of anything.

In my experience Null is most commonly used in programming. Consider a Boolean variable. Something is True or False. 1 or 0. But what a value isn't provided? Null serves as a "no comment". Something that is neither True or False. Being able to make this distinction is important because Zero and Null are interpreted in similar ways. More than a few computer bugs have occurred due to not handling null values correctly (incorrectly assuming they meant False).

In a similar vein but irrelevant here, C-derived programming languages also terminate basic strings/char-arrays with the ASCII "null character" \0.

  • Hate to nitpick, but the ASCII character is actually called NUL.
    – mirabilos
    Jul 28, 2016 at 15:40
  • 4
    That's the abbreviation.
    – Oli
    Jul 28, 2016 at 16:15
  • @mirabilos tools.ietf.org/html/rfc20 -- "Null" is a perfectly valid RFC-specified name for the character. (Similarly, you should not object if someone were to call character #1 the "Start of Heading character" rather than "SOH".)
    – apsillers
    Jul 28, 2016 at 19:32
  • @apsillers NUL is the name, “NullÌ” the description, just like U+0001 is called SOH, whose explanation is “Start of Heading”.
    – mirabilos
    Jul 28, 2016 at 20:12
  • 1
    @mirabilos You have just described an abbreviation. The RFC doesn't make this clear (it leads with many abbreviations). Wikipedia calls NUL an abbreviation. But really, whatever your views on names, descriptions or abbreviations, calling it "null character" here in this context is just clearer than saying "NUL". Given the purposes of names, it is an objectively better name. And perhaps \0 answers to both. Who knows. It really doesn't matter as long as we all know what I'm referring to.
    – Oli
    Jul 28, 2016 at 23:06
  1. In English, the word is null. Your dictionary will provide a useful definition. This will answer your question regarding null.

  2. Zero can only be a cardinal number. Is zero an ordinal or cardinal number? is a nonsensical question in any language. The symbol "0" can represent the initial member of a set, but it is absurd to imagine the "Zeroth" starter in a horse race, since the set of "Zeroth" starters would be infinite in number, or contain no members, depending upon the philosophy of the stewards.


Nol is not an English word. It is possible however, that certain (north american?) accents of English would make null sound like nol. There is a word "knoll" which is pronounced as nol, but it is totally unrelated to these other meanings (eg, the infamous grassy knoll).

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