Consecutive number floor designations

North American
4 (4th floor) 5 (5th floor) 5 (5th floor) 5F or 6F
3 (3rd floor) 4 (4th floor) 4 (4th floor) 4F or 5F
2 (2nd floor) 3 (3rd floor) 3 (3rd floor) 3F or 4F
1 (1st floor) 2 (2nd floor) 2 (2nd floor) 2F or 3F
0, G (Ground floor) 1 (1st floor)
L (Lobby)
G (Ground floor)
1 (1st floor) 1F or 2F
LG (Lower Ground) LL (Lower Lobby) 0 (Semi-Basement) 1F
−1, B1 (1st Basement) −1, B1 (Basement 1) −1, B1 (1st Basement) B1F
−2, B2 (2nd Basement) −2, B2 (Basement 2) −2, B2 (2nd Basement) B2F
−3, B3 (3rd Basement) −3, B3 (Basement 3) −3, B3 (3rd Basement) B3F

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  1. shinichi Post author



    A storey (British English) or story (American English; see spelling differences) is any level part of a building with a floor that could be used by people (for living, work, storage, recreation, etc.). The plurals are “storeys” and “stories” respectively.

    The terms “floor”, “level”, or “deck” are used in a similar way, except that it is usual to talk of a “24-storey building”, but “the 13th floor”. The floor at ground or street level is called the “ground floor” in many places. The words “storey” and “floor” exclude levels of the building that are not covered by a roof, such as the terrace on the top roof of many buildings.


    Floor numbering is the numbering scheme used for a building’s floors. There are two major schemes in use across the world. In one system, used in the majority of European countries, the ground floor is the floor literally at ground level, usually having no number, and identified sometimes as “G” or “0”. The next floor up is assigned the number 1 and is the first floor, and so on. The other system, used primarily in the United States and Canada, counts the bottom floor as the first floor, the next floor up as the second floor, and so on. In both systems, the numbering of higher floors continues sequentially as one goes up, as shown in the following table:

    Consecutive number floor designations (see above)

    ach scheme has further variations depending on how one refers to the ground floor and the subterranean levels. The existence of two incompatible conventions is a common source of confusion in international communication.

    In all English-speaking countries the storeys in a building are counted in the same way: a “seven-storey building” is unambiguous, although the top floor would be called “6th floor” in Britain and “7th floor” in America. Mezzanines may or may not be counted as storeys.

    European scheme

    In most of Europe, the “first storey” or “first floor” is the first level above ground level. This scheme is also used in many former British colonies, Greece, Albania, many Latin American countries (including Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil), in Hawaii (when using Hawaiian language) and in many of the Commonwealth nations (including Malaysia, except Singapore and most of Canada).

    This convention can be traced back to Medieval European usage. In countries that use this system, the floor at ground level is usually referred to by a special name, usually translating as “ground floor” or equivalent. For example, Erdgeschoss (“ground floor”) in Germany, piano terra (lit. “ground floor”) in Italy, begane grond (lit. “trodden ground”) in the Netherlands, planta baja or planta baixa (“bottom floor”) in Spain, beheko solairua in Basque, andar térreo (“ground floor”) in Brazil, rés-do-chão (“adjacent to the ground”) in Portugal, földszint (“ground level”) in Hungary (although in Budapest the “fél szint” or “half floor” is an extra level between the ground and first floors, apparently the result of a tax evasion trick in the 19th century), parter (from French par terre, which means “on the ground”) in Romania and Poland, prízemie (“by the ground”) in Slovakia and pritličje (“close to the ground”) in Slovenia. In some countries that use this scheme, the higher floors may be explicitly qualified as being above the ground level, such as in Slovenian “prvo nadstropje” (literally “first upper floor”).

    In Spain, the level above ground level (the mezzanine) is sometimes called “entresuelo” (entresòl in Catalan, etc., which literally means “interfloor”), and elevators may skip it. The next level is sometimes called “principal”. The “first floor” can therefore be three levels above ground level. In Italy, in the ancient palaces the first floor is called piano nobile (“noble floor”), since the noble owners of the palace lived there.

    In France, there are two distinct names for storeys in buildings which have two “ground floors” at different levels (on two opposite faces, usually). The lower one is called rez-de-chaussée (lit. “adjacent to the road”), the upper one is rez-de-jardin (lit. “adjacent to the garden”). The same differentiation is used as well in some buildings in Croatia. The lower level is called razizemlje (abbr. RA), and the upper prizemlje (PR). If there’s only one ground floor, it’s called prizemlje. The latter usage is standard for smaller buildings, such as single-family homes.

    Canadian schemes

    The English-speaking parts of Canada generally follow the American convention, where the “first” floor is the floor at the ground level and the floor above it is the “second” floor. Canada however uses the spelling “storey”, not “story”. In Quebec, the European scheme was formerly used (as in France), but by now it has been mostly replaced by the US system, so that rez-de-chaussée and premier étage (“first stage”) are now generally equivalent in Quebec. Mexico, on the other hand, uses the European system.

    Latin American schemes

    In Latin America, planta baja and primer piso (“first floor”), which are distinct in Spain and Mexico, are equivalent in Chile and Peru, and refer both to the ground-level floor (although primer piso is used mainly for indoor areas, while planta baja is also used for areas outside the building).

    East Asian schemes

    Most parts of eastern Asia – including China except for Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Singapore – follow this system. In the grammar of the respective languages, the numbers precede the word “floor”, and are cardinals rather than ordinals, so they would translate literally as “1 floor, 2 floor” (etc.), rather than “1st floor, 2nd floor”, or “floor 1, floor 2”.

    In Vietnam, the European scheme is used in the southern part of the country (most notably in the country’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City), but the American scheme is more prevalent in the northern and central regions (including in Hanoi, the capital). Cardinal numbers usually follow the word “floor” (i.e. floor 1, floor 2, or floor 3). The northern Vietnamese system is also used in Indonesia.

    In Singapore, the British system of numbering originally prevailed. This was replaced in the 1980s with the North American scheme for compatibility with other Asian countries. To emphasise the difference from the original scheme, reference is frequently made to storeys rather than floors, where the third (3rd) floor becomes either the fourth (4th) storey (or storey 4) or fourth (4th) level (or level 4). Many buildings continue to label storeys or levels rather than floors. However, in the absence of clear official distinction between the terms, the meaning of “floors” and “levels” have become interchangeable with “storey”; this is reflected in newer buildings.

    In Japan and Korea, “Floor 1” (1F) is assigned to the lowest floor that is at least partially above the ground level, so occasionally, 1F in these countries corresponds to the “lower ground floor” in the UK. 2F then corresponds to the “ground floor”, 3F to the “first floor”, and so on.

    Hawaiian scheme

    In Hawaii, the Hawaiian language floor label uses British floor numbering, however the English language floor label use American floor numbering. Formerly, the English floor label also used British floor numbering (Ground floor, First floor, Second floor), which in Hawaiian is (Lepo papa, Papa akahi, Papa alua) respectively, but it was also replaced by North American scheme to make it the same as the rest of the US. To emphasise this difference, buildings in Hawaii use”level” rather than “floor”. Thus, Lepo papa = Ground floor = Level 1, Papa akahi = First floor = Level 2, etc.


    Some American high-rise buildings follow the British/European system, often out of a desire on the part of the building’s architect or owners.

    An arrangement often found in high rise public housing blocks, particularly those built in the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, is that elevators would only call at half the total number of floors, or at an intermediate level between a pair of floors; for example a lift of a 24-storey building would only stop at 12 levels, with staircases used to access the “upper” or “lower” level from each intermediate landing. This was commonly used as a cost-saving measure to reduce the number of elevator shaft doors.

    A few buildings in the United States and Canada have both a “first floor” (usually the main floor of the building) and a “ground floor” below it. This typically happens when both floors have street-level entrances, as is often the case for hillside buildings. In the UK, the lower of these floors would be called the “lower ground floor”, while the upper would be called either the “upper ground floor” or simply the “ground floor”. Multi-storey car parks which have a staggered arrangement of parking levels sometimes use a convention where there may be an “upper” and “lower” level of the same floor number, (e.g.: “1U/U1” = Upper 1st, “L2/2L” = “Lower 2nd” and so on), although the elevators will typically only serve one of the two levels, or the elevator lobby for each floor pair may be between the two levels.

    In 19th-century London, many buildings were built with the main entrance floor a metre above ground, and the floor below that being two metres below ground. This was done partly for aesthetics, and partly to allow access between the lower level and the street without going through the main floor. In this situation, the lower level is called Lower Ground, the main floor is called Upper Ground, and floors above it are numbered serially from 1. There may also be a storage floor called “Cellar” below Lower Ground.

    Sometimes, floor number 1 may be the lowest basement level; in that case the ground floor may be numbered 2 or higher. Sometimes two connected buildings (such as a store and its car park) have incongruent floor numberings, due to sloping terrain or different ceiling heights. To avoid this, shopping centres may call the main floors by names such as Upper Mall, Lower Mall & Toilet Mezzanine, with the parking floors being numbered Pn

    In Norway and Sweden the floors are numbered as in the North American scheme (“1st” = “ground”, “2nd”, etc.), but one can also refer to them by how many flights of stairs one needs to climb to reach them from the ground floor. So, in Swedish 2:a våningen (“2nd floor”) is the same as 1 trappa upp (“1 flight up”); 3:e våningen (“3rd floor”) is also 2 trappor upp (“2 flights up”); and so on. In modern lifts, however, floors are usually numbered according to British convention, where the street level is referred to E (for “entré”, or entrance) or BV (for bottenvåning, or bottom floor) and the next floor is given the number 1.

    In some instances, buildings may omit the thirteenth floor in their floor numbering because of common superstition surrounding this number. The floor numbering may either go straight from 12 to 14, or the floor may be given an alternative name such as “Skyline” or “14A”.

    In Hong Kong the British numbering system is now generally used, in English and Chinese alike. In some older residential buildings, however, the floors are identified by signs in Chinese characters that say “二樓” (“2 floor”) at the floor just above ground, as in the North American system. For those buildings, the Chinese phrase “三樓” or its English equivalent “3rd floor” may refer either to the storey three levels above ground (as in the modern numbering), which is actually labelled “四樓” (“4 floor”), or to the storey with the sign “三樓” (“3 floor”), which is only two levels above ground. This confusing state of affairs has led, for example, to numerous errors in utility billing. To avoid ambiguity, business forms often ask that storey numbers in address fields be written as accessed from a lift.

    In some mainland Chinese and Taiwanese buildings (typically high-rises), the 4th floor is actually omitted or skipped, along with other floor numbers ending in 4 such as 14th and 24th. The floor above the third would be numbered as the fifth, and so on. This is because of tetraphobia: in many varieties of Chinese (as well as the Chinese-derived numbers used in Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese) the pronunciation of the character 四 (“four”) is very similar to the pronunciation of the character 死 (“dead” or “to die”). Also for this reason, apartments on the 4th floor in Asian countries such as Taiwan have traditionally been cheaper to rent. It is also common in China for the thirteenth floor to also be omitted.

    In Hawaii, the Hawaiian language floor label uses the British System, but the English language floor label uses the American system. For example, Papa akolu (P3) = Level 4 (4 or L4).


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