Here’s Why 7 Is Considered a Lucky Number
Is lucky number 7 your favorite digit? Here's why you're not the only one.
If you ask anyone to choose a number between one and ten, many times that person will choose lucky number 7. But why? Is it something about being larger than five, but just not quite being ten? Is it because seven ate nine? There are actually many reasons why the number seven is considered a lucky number, similar to the four-leaf clover, and none of them have anything to do with the number’s appetite. Spoiler alert: it’s more mathematical than superstition, believe it or not. But if ghosts and demons are more your speed and you want to learn more about superstition, read up on the origin story of the phrase knock on wood.
Why is 7 a lucky number?
There are the Seven Wonders of the World. The seven dwarfs. Seven days in a week. Seven colors in the rainbow. There are seven swans a-swimming. Seven notes on a musical scale. Seven deadly sins. The list goes on.
Some mathematicians and scientists believe that there are specific properties of the number seven that make it appealing to people. Alex Bellos, a mathematician and writer for The Guardian, set out to find the world’s favorite number in a massive, public vote on his website—which received more than 44,000 votes from numberphiles around the world.
Voters gave many reasons for their choices. Often, a number signified an important date, a memorable age, or simply exuded “friendliness and warmth.” Odd numbers outperformed evens, and round numbers ending in 5 or 0 proved too vague for most tastes (“When we say 100, we don’t usually mean exactly 100, we mean around 100,” Bellos says. “Why would you have something as your favorite that is so vague?”).
In third place, number eight was rewarded for its lovely symmetry and associations with the Chinese character for prosperity. In second place, number three took the prize for its many appearances in culture and nature (as they say, everything is better in threes). And, with nearly 10 percent of the total vote, the world’s favorite number according to Bellos’ poll is… seven.
Shocked? Probably not. It turns out that seven’s triumph only reaffirms a human fascination that goes back thousands of years. Bellos points out that ancient Babylonian tablets were riddled with sevens, an observation future historians might make about us when reviewing footage of our Las Vegas slot machines and craps tables. Make sure you read these incredible stories about luck that will make you believe in it.
The real reason people love seven is the same reason we love James Dean, Prince, or the KFC Double-Down sandwich: Seven is a stone-cold rebel that follows no rules but its own.
“Seven is the only number among those we can count on our hands (1-10) that cannot be divided or multiplied within the group,” Bellos explains. One, two, three, four, and five can each be doubled to reach two, four, six, eight, and ten. Nine is divisible by three. Seven, then, is the only number between two and ten that is neither a multiple nor a factor of the others. In this way, “lucky number seven” stands alone—and we grasp this implicitly.
“It’s unique, a loner, the outsider. And humans interpret this arithmetical property in cultural ways,” Bellos says. “By associating seven with a group of things, you kind of make them special too. The point here is that we’re always sensitive to arithmetical patterns, and this influences our behavior—even if we’re not conscious of it.” Learn the real reason why pennies are lucky, especially when they’re heads up.
The significance of the number 7 in other cultures
There is a strong connection between the number seven and many religions around the globe. Lucky number 7 is even the basis for many myths and folklore. Ancient beliefs from around the world believed that the seventh son of the seventh son would be gifted with magical powers (both good and evil). In the Bible, scholars claim that God created the world in six days and used the seventh day to rest. Because of this, the number seven is used to illustrate an idea of completeness throughout the Bible.
In both Islam and Judaism, there are seven heavens. Muslim people walk around the Kaaba seven times while making the pilgrimage to Mecca. Seven represents harmony encompassed by yin, yang, and the five elements in Confucianism. There are seven higher worlds and seven underworlds in Hinduism. In Buddhism, the newborn Buddha takes seven steps.
So there you have it. If your favorite number is seven, you have a soft spot for the rebels, the individuals, and the loose cannons of math and culture. And so does everyone else.
- The Guardian: “‘Seven’ triumphs in poll to discover world’s favourite number”
- Nautilus: “Found: The World’s Favorite Number”
- YouTube: “Alex Bellos on the World’s Favourite Number: Why we all love 7”
- Psychology Today: “Seven Reasons We Are Captivated by the Number Seven”