1. ## billion

British : a thousand milllions

This is from Merriam-Webster. What I find particularly curious is that it is not on the Cambridge site. And I've never seen it used.

Is that actually used in the UK instead of billion? I was sure the answer was "no", but I've learned not to speak too quickly.

Gaer

_________________________________________________________________
Moderator note.
The topic of "what is a billion?" raises a lot of discussion among those who do not routinely use the term.
This is a very long thread and contains a great deal of opinion.
Below I have quoted some of the posts that contain straightforward and robust statements about the UK use of billion.
You are welcome to read the rest of the thread and to add to the discussion if you wish.

Originally Posted by djweaverbeaver

I would just like to point out that both systems were invented in Europe, just like the confusing month/day/year now used in the U.S. versus the day/month/year system used by the Brits and most other people when writing calendrical dates. Now, back to the counting problem. Interestingly enough, both methodologies have a history in France where both systems were used at alternate periods in its history. Well, here's the logic behind the American system:

1,000=thousand
1,000,000=million (basically a thousand thousand)
1,000,000,000=billion (2 sets of zeros after a thousand)
1,000,000,000,000=trillion (3 sets of zeros after a thousand)
1,000,000,000,000,000=quadrillion (4 sets " " " " thousand)
1,000,000,000,000,000,000=quintillion (5 sets " " " " thousand)
.
.
.
You get the logic by now. Some other interesting numbers:
10^100 (ten to the hundredth power/to the power of 100)= googol (essentially one followed by a hundred zeros)
10^10^100= 10googol =googolplex (one followed by a googol zeros).

Hope this helps you understand our system.
Originally Posted by panjandrum
Some further sentences from the Wiki article that TT has linked above < Here's about the simplest clear explanation I could find.> are very useful.
For most of the 19th and 20th centuries, the United Kingdom uniformly used the long scale while the United States of America used the short scale, so that usage of the two systems was often referred to as "British" and "American" respectively.
In 1974 the government of the UK abandoned the long scale, so that the UK now exclusively applies the short scale interpretation in mass media and official usage.
...
The two systems can be a subject of controversy and can arouse emotion. Usage changes can evoke resentment in adherents to the older system, while national differences of any kind can acquire patriotic overtones.
Originally Posted by Loob
One thousand million. That's been the "official" meaning of billion for a number of years.

See this 1974 answer by Harold Wilson to a written Parliamentary Question:
Source
Originally Posted by Sabapathy
Here as under, is given, what has been agreed upon internationally the mathamatical units
and are being used by banks all over the world for currency counting.

10 to the power of 3 = 1000 ( thousand )
10 to the power of 6 = 1000,000 ( thousand thousand = million )
10 to the power of 9 = 1000,000,000 ( thousand million = billion )
10 to the power of 12 = 1000,000,000,000 ( thousand billion = trillion )

like wise it goes on to quadrillion etc., always increasing the power number by 3.

I hope this explanation , even though mathamatically expressed , gives a definite understanding into the english term " million " ; " billion " etc. In my opinion, this is well with in the scope of this forum , that the above explanation is given.

Thanks

Sabapathy
----------
Last edited by panjandrum; 16th April 2009 at 12:08 PM.

2. ## Re: milliard

Yes, the dictionary is correct. A billion in Britain is defined as a thousand thousand million (a trillion everywhere else). Weird, eh?

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Milliard.html
but also:
http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Billion.html

The second link seems to indicate that the American number system is taking over there. I guess let's wait for the Brits to see what the common usage is today.

3. ## Re: milliard

Originally Posted by Markus
Yes, the dictionary is correct. A billion in Britain is defined as a thousand thousand million (a trillion everywhere else). Weird, eh?

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Milliard.html
but also:
http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Billion.html

The second link seems to indicate that the American number system is taking over there. I guess let's wait for the Brits to see what the common usage is today.
Markus, 10 to the 9th power is 1 plus 9 zeros. That's a billion here. So you are saying that in the UK, billion is 12 zeros? And a millard, in the UK, is the same as a billion here? Hmm…

Confusing…

Oops. I didn't read the second link. But "milliard", meaning 1000 million, is marked as obsolete elsehwere. My confusing is that in German it is the standard word for "billion" (die Milliarde)…

Gaer

4. ## Re: milliard

Yep, that's exactly right. At least that's how it used to be, I don't know how much they've adopted the American system. That must be really confusing for them I imagine, if they're in transition. Any time someone says a billion... oh, do you mean American billion or a billion?

5. ## Re: milliard

Originally Posted by Markus
Yep, that's exactly right. At least that's how it used to be, I don't know how much they've adopted the American system. That must be really confusing for them I imagine, if they're in transition. Any time someone says a billion... oh, do you mean American billion or a billion?
We crossed. I was editing, you were posting. It would not be confusing for me if one or the other is now standard, because I am familiar with both words. But I had not seen milliard in English before, just in other languages. Maybe someone from the UK will pop in and tell us what is in use NOW.

My suspicion was aroused when when the Cambridge site, which speciailizes in UK English, said that "it did not recognize the word". That usually means it's obsolete. So we have a little mystery here.

Gaer

6. ## Re: milliard

noone, and i mean noone knows what a milliard is (i base this on the fact that i am studying maths at degree level and i have never ever seem the term mentioned any where) i only know the word becacuse its the same thing in french and the american system of counting has taken over i imagine that few brits even know that we had a different counting system

7. ## Re: milliard

Originally Posted by Benjy
noone, and i mean noone knows what a milliard is (i base this on the fact that i am studying maths at degree level and i have never ever seem the term mentioned any where) i only know the word becacuse its the same thing in french and the american system of counting has taken over i imagine that few brits even know that we had a different counting system
Benjy, that's what I thought, but I promised the people in the German forum I would check it out.

As I said, if a word is shown not to be part of the Cambridge online database, it's a pretty good indication that the word is not in use.

I keep warning people to beware of dictionary sites. The information about the EXISTENCE of a word often gives no info about current usage.

Gaer

8. Senior Member
Join Date
Mar 2005
Native language
Chile - Spanish
Posts
691

## Re: milliard

Originally Posted by Benjy
noone, and i mean noone knows what a milliard is (i base this on the fact that i am studying maths at degree level and i have never ever seem the term mentioned any where) i only know the word becacuse its the same thing in french and the american system of counting has taken over i imagine that few brits even know that we had a different counting system
In Spanish, like in French, "millardo" = 1000 millions and "billón" = 1000000 millions.
This is a mess in accounting and commercial contracts. Probably the only solution is to use also "milliard" in English.

9. ## Re: milliard

Originally Posted by gaer
I keep warning people to beware of dictionary sites. The information about the EXISTENCE of a word often gives no info about current usage.
This is a good warning, though it's not why I thought the term was still in use. I've actually been told this 'fact' by several different people over the years. I think that our cultures love to believe crazy things about other cultures, and having a different definition for a billion is about as crazy as it gets. Anyway, thanks for the clarification Benjy.

Markus

10. ## Re: milliard

Originally Posted by rayb
In Spanish, like in French, "millardo" = 1000 millions and "billón" = 1000000 millions.
This is a mess in accounting and commercial contracts. Probably the only solution is to use also "milliard" in English.
A solution has to be possible. English is not going to change.

But it certainly is confusing!

Gaer

11. Senior Member
Join Date
Mar 2005
Native language
Chile - Spanish
Posts
691

## Re: milliard

Originally Posted by gaer
A solution has to be possible. English is not going to change.

But it certainly is confusing!

Gaer
For sure, business has to and will find a solution. Effectively, in a contrc ir has to be clear if 1 billion means 1 milliard or 1000 milliards. International standards are for that. By the way, we all speak about kilo, mega, tera and so on.

12. ## Re: milliard

Now we know why there are so many billionaires in america, its 1000 times easier...!!!!
p.s.- its the same in ireland 1,000,000,000,000 = 1 billion!!

13. ## Re: milliard

Originally Posted by Markus
Yes, the dictionary is correct. A billion in Britain is defined as a thousand thousand million (a trillion everywhere else). Weird, eh?

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Milliard.html
but also:
http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Billion.html

The second link seems to indicate that the American number system is taking over there. I guess let's wait for the Brits to see what the common usage is today.
This is true, the American system is taking over here, but it is sufficiently in flux for no one to be sure. Obviously if you are really using numbers this big it is EXTREMELY important to be sure which you are talking about. I work in the European headquarters of an American company and when we have occasion to talk about numbers this large we never use the word "billion" alone everyone says "Billion as in a thousand million" or "a million million". If I had a communication come from the US using the word billion I would assume it meant a thousand million (and I think it always would), but if it was vital I knew for sure I would check. I don't think I'd have a job for long if I got it wrong

14. ## Re: milliard

Originally Posted by rayb
By the way, we all speak about kilo, mega, tera and so on.
Because there is such a resistance to metrics in the US, we tend to have more problems with these terms, I think.

Perhaps billion has already become common in the UK (and elsewhere) for the reason you mentioned—standardization. The problem is that it's different in other languages. I suppose if you want to be absolutely certain, the only way is to write out the number with the appropriate number of zeros.

Gaer

15. ## Re: milliard

Originally Posted by timpeac
This is true, the American system is taking over here, but it is sufficiently in flux for no one to be sure. Obviously if you are really using numbers this big it is EXTREMELY important to be sure which you are talking about. I work in the European headquarters of an American company and when we have occasion to talk about numbers this large we never use the word "billion" alone everyone says "Billion as in a thousand million" or "a million million". If I had a communication come from the US using the word billion I would assume it meant a thousand million (and I think it always would), but if it was vital I knew for sure I would check. I don't think I'd have a job for long if I got it wrong
I'd probably just say, "How many zeros are we talking about?" But I'd also be fired the first day.

Gaer

16. Junior Member
Join Date
Apr 2005
Location
Bourgas, Bulgaria
Native language
Bulgaria - Bulgarian/English/French/German
Age
27
Posts
3

## Re: milliard

in Bulgarian the word for 1000 millions also sounds like "milliard", but I've never heard it in English... "billion" in Bulgarian means 1 000 000 000 000 (I didn't know that until now ) and I also learned that 1(followed by a hundred zeroes) is called a googol... here's some interesting info I found:
The name "Google" is a play on the word googol, which was coined by Milton Sirotta, nephew of U.S. mathematician Edward Kasner in 1938, to refer to the number represented by 1 followed by one hundred zeros. Google's use of the term reflects the company's mission to organize the immense amount of information available on the Web. As a further play on this, Google's headquarters are referred to as "the Googleplex" - a googolplex being 1 followed by a googol of zeros, and the HQ being a complex of buildings (and cf multiplex, cineplex, etc).

17. ## Millions and Billions

A couple of years ago, a friend told me that although a million is the same everywhere, it isn't so with a billion. I didn't believe him then when he said that a billion in Great Britain is a million million whereas everywhere else, it's a thousand million. I made a bet with him and lost some money. I wonder if it's still true today, that a billion in GB is a thousand times more than a billion elsewhere.

18. Senior Member
Join Date
Jan 2005
Location
Bordeaux
Native language
UK, English
Posts
144

## Re: Millions and Billions

Absolutely true!

19. ## Not only that

Aren't gallons bigger too? I seem to remember when I was back in highschool, if you bought a gallon of gas in Canada it was way more expensive, because "Imperial gallons" had 5 quarts in them instead of 4?

Whenever I'm south of the "upper tier" of the "lower 48" I can't get people to believe this. Am I hallucinating again? Gas fumes maybe?

Or might fifths of a gallon of a different sort altogether be at fault?

20. ## Re: Millions and Billions

Hi everyvody.

I think I don't understand:
if I write 1.000.000.000 what and English would read? and an American? thank you!

Dk.

#### Posting Permissions

• You may not post new threads
• You may not post replies
• You may not post attachments
• You may not edit your posts
•