Eleven Elevens

“One and one are sometimes 11” – KASHMIRI PROVERB

One left

The word “eleven” comes from the old German word ainlif, meaning “one left”.

If you count using your fingers and thumbs, 11 is the first number of the next round, represented by a single digit left on its own. The word twelve is formed the same way: it means “two left”. Lithuanian numbers are also formed in this way: vienio-lika “eleven”, dvy-lika “twelve”, try-lika “thirteen”, keturio-lika “fourteen”.

Number 11

You can quickly tell if a number is divisible by 11 by adding the digits in the odd positions and subtracting the sum total of those in even positions – if the number you get is divisible by 11, or 0, then so is the whole number. So, 65,637 (6 + 6 + 7) – (5 + 3) = 19 – 8 = 11.

Eleven is also a Lucas number, a sequence similar to Fibonnacci’s, generated by adding the last two numbers together to produce a third, starting with two instead of zero (ie 2,1,3,4,7,11,18,29…) If you take pairs of Lucas numbers and divide the higher by the lower you get progressively closer to phi, the “golden ratio” number.

11 times

A View of Earth from Saturn

A view of Earth from Saturn

Jupiter is 11 times the diameter of the Earth. If the Earth were a pound coin, Jupiter would be about the size of a supper plate. The sun appears 11 times brighter on Mercury than it does on Earth. Only 11 meteorite craters have definitely been identified on earth.

11 years old

Venetia Burney, from Oxford, was 11 when she suggested the name Pluto for the newly discovered planet. Jack Kerouac was 11 when he wrote his first novel. Benedict IX became Pope, aged 11, in 1032.


On November 11, 1911, the US suffered the most extreme cold snap in its history. Known as the Great Blue Northern, it saw both record highs and lows broken in a number of Midwestern cities on the same day. In Oklahoma City, the temperature dropped from 28C to -8C. Both records remain unbroken.

11 sides

The Canadian one-dollar coin, nicknamed the Loonie, has 11 sides (a hendecagon), The Loonie, created in 1987, was intended to have two fur-clad explorers in a canoe on its reverse but the master dies went missing in transit so the Canadian Mint went for an alternative design featuring a common loon (or great northern diver) to foil potential counterfeiters. The maple leaf, featured on the Canadian flag, has 11 points and the clock on the Canadian $50 bill shows the time as 11 o’clock.

11 wars

The US has formally gone to war just 11 times: twice against Germany, twice against Hungary (one of those occasions in its guise as Austria-Hungary) and once each against Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, Japan, Spain, Mexico and the United Kingdom. Vietnam and the two Iraq campaigns were “military engagements authorised by Congress” rather than “wars”, and the Korean “conflict” wasn’t even approved by Congress.

11 eggs

Simnel Cake traditionally has 11 eggs or marzipan balls on top to represent the 11 faithful disciples of Jesus (excluding Judas). It was given as a gift by servant girls to their mothers on Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent, but was often kept until Easter Day a week later. “Simnel” derives from simila, the Latin for “fine flour”, from which we also get semolina.

11 metres

In German a penalty kick is called an Elfmeter, as the penalty shot is taken approximately 11 metres from the goal line. The German (and Dutch) word for 11 is Elf.

11,000 virgins

The Martyrdom of St. Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins

The Martyrdom of St. Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins

St Ursula, the British saint who was reputedly murdered near Cologne by the Huns along with her 11,000 virgin handmaidens in AD 383, may have been the victim of a misinterpretation. The earliest reference to the legend uses the abbreviation XI M V, which might stand for the roman numeral for 11,000 or, as scholars think more likely, “11 martyred virgins”. Other sources describe Ursula herself as 11 years old – undecimilia in Latin – which is very close to undicimila, meaning 11,000.

11 to infinity

In Basque, 11 is hamaika.

It also means infinite, probably from amaigabe, “endless”, as in Hamaika aldiz etortzeko esan dizut! – “I told you infinite/11 times to come!”

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