Is 18 a Lucky Number?

Is 18 a lucky number or an unlucky one? What does 18 mean? Let’s see from these different countries how they perceive the number 18.

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In Japan, 18 is a number considered very unlucky for a person to have in his/her birth date. This is because the Japanese word for eighteen, “jū-Hachi” ( 十八 ), consist of two parts: 1) ten and 2) eight.

In Japanese culture, when you say 10 it means “to get rid of something”. And when you say 8, it means ‘prosper’. Put them together and it’s easy to see how this could become an unlucky number!

As such, many people believe that their family would keep away from giving the newborn a name made up of numbers like “18”, or anything containing the character 八 (eight).

Some hotels and department stores in Japan skip the 18th floor or remove any trace of this number after renumbering.

Kayo Sugaya, the representative director of a real estate agency in Tokyo’s Koto Ward says that it is not uncommon to see signs on buildings that have removed two tiles from the ’18th-floor staircase’.

“For example, you’ll find 12F and 13F instead of 14F and 15F”. The word for twelve (十二) has the same pronunciation as “to get rid of two”, while thirteen (十三) means “great luck” – ergo, good omens!

“Many companies believe that having an auspicious name for their building increases its chances of success. So we’re often asked to remove the unpleasant ’18th-floor stairs’ if it’s a high-rise building.”

The Japanese are not the only ones to believe that 18 is an unlucky number. In China, this superstition comes from the word “eighteen” sounding similar to the word for “prosperity”.

The Cantonese version of this superstition says it is because when you say 18 in Cantonese, it sounds like saying ‘to have money forever.


In Korea, 18 is also considered very unlucky because eight ( 팔 – pa ) sounds like ‘to come’ (which can mean ‘to come of age) while nine ( 십 – ship ) sounds like ‘a long time’. Combined, they sound like ‘it will be a long time until you come of age.

You can see the reasoning here, right?

Thailand and Cambodia

In Thailand and Cambodia, the 18th is very unlucky because “eighteen” is pronounced “sip-sip” and this sounds like somebody drinking. It is believed that those born on such days will spend their whole lives drinking.

A Thai saying goes: ” เด็กอายุ 18 ไม่ได้เป็นเพราο เล่­ า  ๆ , เ … అల్ల จะเป็นแค่ 1 8 ว่า แต่ 1 8 ไม่ = 0 , 0 + 0 = 0 ” (No translation found)

This is why many Thai people believe that if a baby is born on the 18th, the parents will need to do something special for it. Otherwise, such a person might become an alcoholic later in life.

This belief has given rise to another superstition: if both spouses were born on the 18th, they’re supposed to abstain from drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes during their marriage or else they won’t have any happiness in their lives.

Of course, this list is not complete without mentioning the ‘unlucky’ number 13. Many Westerners hold this belief but it also exists in these other countries as well! For example, there’s a story that goes:

“The last emperor of the Ming Dynasty was so horrified when the palace staff told him that it was a Wednesday, which would be ‘Ji chu shi si’ in Mandarin ( 九 月 四 日 – 9th Month 4th Day), he killed many of them to avoid any bad luck from happening to his family.”

Another version from South Africa says: “In China, it is considered unlucky to have thirteen people at a table for dinner. It is believed that the first person would die soon after.”

It’s interesting how different cultures can have such divergent views of numbers. Some may say these are ‘superstitions’. Others may argue that it is just common sense.

While some people consider even numbers to be more favourable than odd ones, others believe in certain ‘power’ spots (like 4th and 14th) where luck is said to manifest itself easily! I guess…it all boils down to culture and personal preference.

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