Tetraphobia

An elevator control panel in a residential apartment building in Shanghai with floor numbers 4, 13 and 14 missing. Floor 4 is missing because of the very similar pronunciation of "four" and "death" in Mandarin Chinese. Floor 13 is missing due to triskaidekaphobia. Floor 14 is missing because 4 is included in 14. Note that there is a "negative first" floor.

Tetraphobia (from Greek τετράς—tetras, "four"[1] and φόβος—phobos, "fear"[2]) is the practice of avoiding instances of the number 4. It is a superstition most common in East Asian nations.[3]

Rationale

Language Reading

(four)

(death)
Proto-Sino-Tibetan *b-ləj *səj
Old Chinese /*s.lij-s/ /*sijʔ/
Middle Chinese /siɪH/ /sˠiɪX/
Mandarin Chinese
Wu Chinese (Shanghainese) sy² sy², shi²
Cantonese sei³ sei²
Hakka si³ si⁴
Min Nan (Hokkien) sì, sù sí, sú
Vietnamese tư, tứ tử
Korean sa sa
Japanese shi shi

The Chinese word for four (, pinyin: sì, jyutping: sei3), sounds quite similar to the word for death (, pinyin: sǐ, jyutping: sei2), in many varieties of Chinese. Similarly, the Sino-Japanese, Sino-Korean, and Sino-Vietnamese words for four, shi (し, Japanese), and sa (사, Korean), sound similar or identical to death in each language (see Korean numerals, Japanese numerals, Vietnamese numerals). Tetraphobia is known to occur in Korea and Japan since the two words sound identical, but not at all in Vietnam because they carry different tones (in the case of the word for "four", whether it is the Sino-Vietnamese reading tứ or the more common non-Sino-Vietnamese reading , neither sounds like the word for "death" which is tử), and Vietnamese does not use Sino-Vietnamese numerals as often in the first place.

Special care may be taken to avoid occurrences or reminders of the number 4 during everyday life, especially during festive holidays, or when a family member is ill. Mentioning the number 4 around a sick relative is strongly avoided. Giving four of something is strongly discouraged. Elevators in Asia and Asian neighborhoods often skip the 4th floor. Military aircraft and ships also avoid the number 4 (such as the South Korean and Taiwanese navies). April 4 is also considered an exceptionally unlucky day, much like Friday the 13th in the West.[citation needed]

Similarly, 14, 24, 42, etc. are also to be avoided due to the presence of the digit 4 in these numbers. In these countries, these floor numbers are often skipped in buildings, ranging from hotels to offices to apartments, as well as hospitals. Table number 4, 14, 24, 42, etc. are also often left out in wedding dinners or other social gatherings in these countries. In many residential complexes, building block 4, 14, 24 etc. are either omitted or replaced with block 3A, 13A, and 23A. Hospitals are of grave concern and the number 4 is regularly avoided altogether. Tetraphobia can dictate property prices. Neighborhoods have removed four from their street names and become more profitable as a result.[citation needed] In the same way, buildings with multiple fours can suffer price cuts.[citation needed] Four is also avoided in phone numbers, security numbers, business cards, addresses, ID numbers, and other numbers and are considered severe as they are personally attached to the person.[citation needed]

Tetraphobia far surpasses triskaidekaphobia (Western superstitions around the number 13). It even permeates the business world in these regions of Asia.[4]

Other Languages
asturianu: Tetrafobia
Bân-lâm-gú: Kiaⁿ 4
български: Тетрафобия
bosanski: Tetrafobija
català: Tetrafòbia
čeština: Tetrafobie
Deutsch: Tetraphobie
español: Tetrafobia
Esperanto: Kvarfobio
français: Tétraphobie
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Kiâng 4
한국어: 4자 금기
հայերեն: Տետրաֆոբիա
hrvatski: Tetrafobija
Bahasa Indonesia: Tetrafobia
italiano: Tetrafobia
Lëtzebuergesch: Tetraphobie
Limburgs: Tetrafobie
magyar: Tetrafóbia
Bahasa Melayu: Tetrafobia
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Giăng 4
日本語: 四の字
polski: Tetrafobia
português: Tetrafobia
русский: Тетрафобия
Simple English: Tetraphobia
српски / srpski: Тетрафобија
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Tetrafobija
suomi: Tetrafobia
svenska: Tetrafobi
Türkçe: Tetrafobi
українська: Тетрафобія
vepsän kel’: Tetrafobii
粵語: 四嘅禁忌
中文: 四的禁忌