The system was adopted by Arabic mathematicians in Baghdad and passed on to the Arabs farther west. There is some evidence to suggest that the numerals in their current form developed from Arabic letters in the Maghreb, the western region of the Arab world. The current form of the numerals developed in North Africa, distinct in form from the Indian and Eastern Arabic numerals. It was in the North African city of Bejaia that the Italian scholar Fibonacci first encountered the numerals; his work was crucial in making them known throughout Europe. The use of Arabic numerals spread around the world through European trade, books and colonialism.
The term Arabic numerals is ambiguous. It most commonly refers to the numerals widely used in Europe and the Americas; to avoid confusion, Unicode calls these European digits. Arabic numerals is also the European name for the entire family of related numerals of Arabic and Indian numerals. It may also be intended to mean the numerals used by Arabs, in which case it generally refers to the Eastern Arabic numerals. It would be more appropriate to refer to the Arabic numeral system, where the value of a digit in a number depends on its position.
Although the phrase "Arabic numeral" is frequently capitalized, it is sometimes written in lower case: for instance, in its entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, which helps to distinguish it from "Arabic numerals" as the East Arabic numerals specific to the Arabs.
The decimal Hindu–Arabic numeral system with zero was developed in India by around AD 700. The development was gradual, spanning several centuries, but the decisive step was probably provided by Brahmagupta's formulation of zero as a number in AD 628. The system was revolutionary by including zero in positional notation, thereby limiting the number of individual digits to ten. It is considered an important milestone in the development of mathematics. One may distinguish between this positional system, which is identical throughout the family, and the precise glyphs used to write the numerals, which varied regionally.
The glyphs most commonly used in conjunction with the Latin script since early modern times are 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9. The first universally accepted inscription containing the use of the 0 glyph in India is first recorded in the 9th century, in an inscription at Gwalior in Central India dated to 870. Numerous Indian documents on copper plates exist, with the same symbol for zero in them, dated back as far as the 6th century AD, but their dates are uncertain. Inscriptions in Indonesia and Cambodia dating to AD 683 have also been found.