Fear of the Number 4: Demystifying the Mystery

Fear of number 4 in China
In China, Japan, and many other Southeast Asian countries, the number 4 is considered as unlucky, and associated with death. Know why people fear the number 4.
Creepy Coincidence?

According to a study of 25 years, by the British Medical Journal on Chinese and Japanese people, they were 13% more likely to die due to heart attack on the 4th of any month.

We humans are a fascinating lot! There is no limit to what may fascinate or spook us. Probably, that's the reason there are so many phobias and superstitions. Some of them may sound absolutely ridiculous, but people who actually have them, know how serious these can be.

Arithmophobia or numerophobia is the fear of numbers. Numbers are used for counting, then why fear them? Well, reasons are many, the most important one being associating numbers with various attributes like good or bad luck, prosperity, death, devil, etc. Tetraphobia is the fear of number four. Tetra means four and phobia means fear. What? Why would someone be afraid of an innocent number like 4? Know the answer in the upcoming sections of this Buzzle article.

Why are people afraid of the number 4?

Just as the West is wary of number 13, the East fears the number of death - 4! In many Southeast Asian and East Asian regions, people are literally sacred of this number, because in Chinese, the pronunciation sounds very similar to death. Even in Sino-Japanese, Sino-Korean, and Sino-Vietnamese, the resemblance is eerie.

In Japanese, both four and death are pronounced as shi, in Korean as sa, in Mandarin Chinese as si, and in Cantonese as sei. Thus, four is feared in countries like China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore.

In Japanese, 24 is called nishi, which is like double death, 42 is shini or to die, 45 is shigo or after death.

Interesting Facts

The fear is so deeply rooted in the minds of people of these countries that many buildings don't have 4th, 14th, 24th, and such other floors. Some high-rise towers skip 40th to 49th floors, and directly have the 50th floor. So don't be surprised if you find some missing numbers in elevators when you go to China or Hong Kong! In fact, property prices tend to drop considerably if there's any connection to four.

Even hospitals don't have rooms with the number 4. Sometimes they replace 4 with F. The number is not mentioned in front of sick relatives.

Many shopping centers and malls have the floor 3A instead of 4.

Even when gifting someone or buying something, a set of 3 or 5 objects is given, not 4. Gifting someone a set of 4 things is considered as purposely inviting doom and bad luck.

In Taiwan, license plates cannot have the number 4.

4 is not used in phone numbers, addresses, or security numbers in many countries.

No Nokia models ever start with the number 4. Even Canon Cameras don't have product numbers with 4 in them.

4th of April is considered as a very unlucky day.

As you can see, this fear has affected the business world as well the people in some Southeast Asian countries. In fact, the superstitions are much more than those associated with Triskaidekaphobia or the fear of number 13. Some people even experience physical effects like anxiety, panic attacks, or severe stress due to this phobia.