78 Comments
Was wondering the same myself. The English word "number" covers several meanings that are distinct in other languages.
Would it be right to say that "cifra" refers to the sign used to represent a number/quantity while "nombre" is the actual quantity (concrete or abstract) represented by this sign?
I have been a math teacher in the USA for 40 years. The symbol, that you write, is called the "numeral" and the concept is called the "number." (But you will be understood using either word.) A related word in English is "cipher" which can mean to write something in a secret code (the key to that code can also be called a cipher). "Cipher" can mean "zero" or a person/thing that has little importance. (He is a real zero.) An old definition is to "do arithmetic." As in: I can cipher my multiplication tables up to 12 times 12.
dunk999!Sure it comes from Arab but certainly not as you assume: From أَلصِّفْر ʾaṣṣifr = emptiness, we have

cero (Sp) = zero (En) = zéro (Fr) = the number 0

cifra (Sp, It, Rom) = chiffre (Fr) = Ziffer (Ge) = siffra (Sw) = the numeral of a digit

cipher (En) = chiffre (Fr) = chiffer (Sw)

cifrar (Sp) = to code > en cifra = coded, in code
and many many other languages because:
It is the great Persian mathematician and astronomer ALKWĀRIZMĪ who is the father of them all as well as el algoritmo y el álgebra and this both as concepts and as words. In his book from 825 he introduced zero as a number like 1, 2, 3, ... A revolutionary thought (but how can nothing be something? that was and is a difficult question). Hitherto one had avoided zero writing an empty space if necessary. He gave his number a small circle as symbol and named it emptiness in Arab. In this same book he also introduced the Hindu numeral system 0,1,2,...9. His ideas was conceived by nonArabic Mathematicians 400 years later (Fibonacci 1202) and by people generally more than 1000 years later. Due to some confusion of the concepts: zero, digit and number, mixed with his name misspelled to Algoritm in the Latin translation, also algoritm and cipher were confused see above
For completeness In 830 he published a book: " Im aljabr wa'lmukābala where he created an abstract mathematical language which now is used everywhere under the name "algebra" from "aljabr/restoration" in the title of the book
"Cifra' also means "figure".
http://www.spanishdict.com/translate/cifra
"Figure" is accepted by DL
In English, "figure" has different meanings. Some meanings are as a "digit" or "numeral" or "number."
It comes from mathematics where the Sp. cifra = digit in English i.e. one of the numbers with a numeral (figure)/ dígito: 0, 1, ... , 9
number/ número the real thing, a quantity
dígito Sp., is a number (note) which can be written with only one symbol, has no counterpart in English
numeral/ numeral or guarismo a symbol used to represent a number
En. digit/ Sp. cifra a numeral consisting of only one symbol
Cifra (matemática) https://es.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cifra_(matem%C3%A1tica)
numbers, numerals, digits https://www.mathsisfun.com/numbers/numbersnumeralsdigits.html
Thanks SGuthrie0. It seems this would be a better translation to use since it differentiates the meaning from "number".
While many different words are often used interchangeably, I feel it is important (especially for learning purposes) to maintain a distinction between them. Otherwise, why would we need all those different words?
In Spanish, the meaning of cifra has expanded over time.
I believe that cifra originally meant "numeral" as in the symbol used to express a number/número.
cifra = numeral
número = number
For example, "Two", "2", and "II" are all symbols/numerals/cifras to express the same number/número that has the concept of "twoness".
So to express the number 2 (or the concept of "twoness"), you can use either one of these three numerals: Two, 2, or II
En español...
Para el número 2, las cifras son "Dos", "2" y "II".
Yea.. Sort of. It is more commen to use "cifra" if you are talking about a code  like creditcard code. In Denmark we have a four "cifra" code for our creditcards. My phone has a 7 "cifra" code [number]. Another example where "code" og the number of digits aren't used; you need to find the correct "cifras" to unluck next level.
Yes, in theory. A 'cifra' is everyone of the single number which is in any other number :
un número de siete cifras = one number with seven ciphers/digits.
So 'cifra' is just from zero to nine, but a number could be fortyfive. However a lot of people in Spanish confuse both words, e.g.
la cifra de visitantes fue de 15.400.
From what I understand, cifra is closer to "numeral" than "digit".
We don't use "numeral" too often in English, but it refers to the number itself.
Here is the distinction: "7" is numeral and it is also a digit.
However, the number 7717 has four digits, but only two numerals: "7" and "1".
So, in Spanish 7717 has only "2 cifras"
It can mean "number" or "cipher", depending on the context. (http://lema.rae.es/drae/?val=cifra  3. Escritura en que se usan signos, guarismos o letras convencionales, y que solo puede comprenderse conociendo la clave.)
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Mistercatfm, Duolingo accepted "cipher" as a translation. Whether or not native Spanish speakers around the world do, I couldn't say but the comments section is revealing.
Not Exactly.
cifra (Feminne Noun)

(digit) a. figure Ex: Se dice que su salario anual es de seis cifras.They say that his annual salary is six figures.

(quantity) a. number Ex: La cifra de heridos va en aumento después del terremoto.The number of injured is on the rise after the earthquake.

(amount) a. sum Ex: La cifra total de sus compras es de $2,500.The total sum of your purchases is $2,500.
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Why is "The digit" wrong? According to http://www.spanishdict.com/translate/digit it should be accepted.
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I've tried it on DL but it was not accepted. As you indicate, that doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong.
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I thought la cifra meant the figure as in "these figures need more work".