What is the Definition of Zero?


The etymological origin of the term zero is found in a classical Arabic word that can be translated as “empty”. This word passed into Hispanic Arabic, then Latin and finally Italian, the language from which it was beautifully received by us.

According to DigoPaul, zero is the number that refers to a null value or the absence of quantity. Therefore, when a number is multiplied by zero, the result of the operation is always zero.

Suppose a child takes a jar containing ten cookies and, after a few minutes, eats those ten cookies. The jar, therefore, becomes zero cookies: this is equivalent to saying that it has no cookies or that it is empty.

The sign that represents zero is 0. When this sign is located to the right of a whole number in decimal system, what it does is multiply the value of this number by ten. In this way, if we add a 0 to the number 1 to its right, the number 10 is formed (1 x 10 = 10).

It should be noted that zero is also often used as a starting point or origin. The zero kilometer, in this sense, is the place where you start to have a mileage. A road, therefore, starts at a kilometer zero. A scale, for its part, begins to calculate the weight from the zero value. If we place an apple that weighs 100 grams on it, we will see how its scale, if expressed in grams, goes from 0 to 100.

In this sense, one can also speak of “day zero” to refer to the moment in time in which a stage begins. For example, the day a company is founded or we arrive in a new country in search of a radical change in our lives. Zero-day divides, in this way, our existence into two parts and articulates them so that we can compare and link them.

This derives from its use in mathematics, where it is not only used to express a null quantity of elements but to divide negative numbers from positive ones and also to carry out arithmetic operations between them. In general, when we think of the number zero we consider it useless or irrelevant, but science does not assign any qualitative value to it.

For mathematics, zero is not “worrisome”, it does not alert us that “there are no more apples”, but rather it is a point between the infinities of the numerical scale that allows the realization of various counts and measurements, in addition to give rise to the determination of certain very useful rules to operate with the rest of the numbers.

When we talk about numbers, it is very important to remember that there are several officially accepted numbering systems, that is, sets of symbols organized according to a series of rules that limit their generation so that all the numbers obtained can be considered valid. Among the most used numbering systems are binary, hexadecimal and decimal.

We are so used to using the latter in everyday life that we assume that zero always acts in the same way, that it modifies the rest of the numbers in the same way. However, it all depends on the numbering system and its rules; for example, while in decimal 10 is read “ten”, in binary it corresponds to “two”.

The idea of zero, finally, refers to the absolute or complete lack of something: “The person who came today showed zero interest in buying the house”, “Since I have been working in this company I have had zero problems with my boss”, “ I have zero desire to clean my room, but if I don’t, I won’t be able to go in anymore.