“The mathematical sages of India conceived of this concept, and started on the path of the creation of zero back in the ninth century BC. The root of the word is in the Sanskrit Shoonya, meaning ‘it is a void’, which got passed on to the Arabs, who knew the symbol as ‘Safira.’
The Western world came to the concept extraordinarily late, when Venetian merchants stumbled across it and brought it back to their homeland, where it was known as ‘zefiro‘–later corrupted to ‘zero.’ The concept gradually spread through Europe, reading such far-flung outposts as the British Isles in the late sixteenth century.”
Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.