When taking orders, Korean restaurants don't use Arabic numbers, but a system of strokes: one horizontal line for 1 item, completed by a vertical line (like a T-shape) for 2 items. A horizontal stroke to the right from the middle of the vertical stroke of a T-shape (vaguely looking like a F with extended upper horizontal line) for 3 items. And so on...

How does this system work? When is it used?

Note: If you have a better title for this question, feel free to propose or edit. The same is true for the tags: I used 'hangul' mostly because this question was using it.

  • 1
    It's very interesting question. Yes some korean restaurants use 正(정). User17915's answer is great. Two main cases are 1)when ordering foods (to count how many serve per menu), and 2) counting votes. (Especially small election like class chair). These are when you count something one by one and need to record every increment. Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 13:55

2 Answers 2


Adding to @user17915's great answer, 바를 정 is not the only tally mark (symbol) used in Korean. The mark in the image below which is mainly used in North America and Europe is also broadly used.

enter image description here

The linked Wikipedia article on Tally marks has more useful details:

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It is a Chinese short-hand representation of tallying, or counting the number of something, if the number is not too large

More details can be found here: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E6%AD%A3

From the page,

Usage notes (tally marks, 5):
The successive strokes of 正 (East Asian tally marks 1 through 5) are used in China, Japan, and Korea to designate tallies in votes, scores, points, sushi orders, and the like, much as Tally b05.svg is used in Europe, Africa, Australia, and North America. Tallies beyond five are written with a 正 for each group of five, followed by the remainder. For example, a tally of twelve 12 in tally marks as used in Europe, Zimbabwe, Australia, and North America is written as 正正丅.

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