mm and million

Discussion in 'English Only' started by hly2004, Apr 11, 2007.

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  1. hly2004 Banned

    Hi, everyone:

    Could I write "mm" to represent "million" for short?

    Best wishes
  2. Sallyb36

    Sallyb36 Senior Member

    Liverpool UK
    British UK
    No, mm. is short for millimetres.
  3. AWordLover

    AWordLover Senior Member

    Atlanta, Georgia USA
    USA English
    I don't think so. I would probably use M to represent million. As always it would be important to know the context. :)
  4. hly2004 Banned

    I see, thank you two:)
  5. Jstanek New Member

    USA / English
    Yes, you can post "MM" as an abbreviation for "million". MM is a pretty standard abbreviation for Million. It comes from Latin "Mille" meaning "thousand", so MM is a "thousand thousands" which equals one million.

    "MM" is widely used in the financial industry.
  6. mplsray Senior Member

    While you say it is a "pretty standard abbreviation for Million," it's one which most English speakers would not recognize. Not only is it not in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed.--which for "MM" gives only the meaning "messieurs"--it's not even in Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged! Neither dictionary shows the meaning "millions" for "mm," either.

    If the writer is going to use it, he should explain it first, unless he knows for certain that the audience he is writing for would understand it.
  7. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    The Associated Press Stylebook, the guide for nearly all U.S. newspapers and journalism schools, says that "mm" is the abbreviation for "millimeter" and "million" is to be written out, i.e. not abbreviated.
  8. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    MM represents million in certain industries, notably the energy industry (oil and gas), in abbreviations such as MMbbl/d (million barrels of oil per day). Even then, I don't think this is applied universally, some use only one M in this and similar abbreviations.

    I think it would be unwise to use MM to mean million outside of those industries, or parts of industries, where it is standard. In general use, one M will be more readily understood.

    (Surely if M is used because it represents 1000 in the Roman numeric system, then MM should represents two thousand, not a million.)
  9. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    I've never come across MM meaning million. M is quite common in BE especially in large sums of money: £340M (three hundred and forty million pounds).

    I'd probably read MM as a rather shouty millimetres.

    Wouldn't million in Roman numerals be M²?;)
  10. hellas15

    hellas15 Member

    Oxford, England
    Scotland, English, Greek
    I would agree with ewie. The only place I have seen it abbreviated is in the British newspapers with just the one 'M'. Sometimes it, if my memory doesn't deceive me, is used in lower case.

    Is this used around the globe with other currencies? Or is it just our press being individual?
  11. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
  12. Wobby Senior Member

    English [England]
    I agree with others that here in England, a single capital M is generally used to represent a million, particularly regarding money.

    Regarding Packard's idea of using 'k', I would be inclined to use the 'k' in the lower case, consistent with scientific prefixes. I.e. T for tera (10^12), G for giga (10^9), M for mega (10^6) and k for kilo (10^3). Hence for an American billion, I guess one could say $1G? And perhaps £1T for the British billion? But the latter two are just speculation, whereas the use of 'k' and 'M' are actually generally accepted here. :)
  13. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Nice idea, Wobb, though I imagine you'd get a lot of dullards (such as me) reading $1G as one grand in dollars and (for those of us who enjoy such kiddicisms as twelvety)£1T as onety pounds:D
  14. ask230 New Member

    United States / English
    I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss jstanek's comment. "MM" is quite a standard abbreviation in the financial industry for "millions." One can find it on most financial statements and/or SEC filings. This is not a dictionary definition but, rather, my observation (although the Random House Unabridged Dictionary's definition does agree with jstanek's assessment in one of its many entries for the abbreviation "MM"/"mm"). So is it official or not? Not quite, but I see it a lot in an industry that probably uses the abbreviation more than just about any other.

    Also, in my experience, I find the abbreviation written in UPPER CASE when referring to "millions." I usually see it in lower case when referring to "millimeters." This is not an official distinction or rule. It's just my observation. Cheers!
  15. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Thanks for that, Ask230, and welcome to the forum:)
    I can't remember the last time I had a bank statement that ran into the millions (I don't suppose you meant that kind of statement) ~ I'll try and bear it in mind the next time I read an SEC filing.
  16. ask230 New Member

    United States / English
    Thanks for the welcome! I was actually referring to the financial statements of corporations (e.g. a balance sheet, an income statement or a statement of cash flows). These financial statements usually run into the hundreds of millions or billions for publicly traded companies. It's a rare event when they don't.

  17. Pac74 New Member

    I find that if one is working in the financial field MM is fine, the majority of people will know what you are talking about. If you are going to use MM for million you should also use M for thousand to be consistent.

    For the gerneral population I would stay away from MM in order to avoid confusion.
  18. infamy New Member

    English - Canada
    FYI for anyone interested - in advertising, CPM means Cost Per Thousand, and MM is considered to be a million, just as in the financial industry.
  19. beam88990 New Member

    'Jstanek' was entirely correct in his/her posting--which was perfected with an indication that the term is widely used in the financial industry.

    "Most English Speakers would not recognize" the abbreviation along with most speakers of any other language. This is because most "people" don't deal with millions of dollars often enough to need an abbreviation. On the other hand, 99% of all "English Speaking" accountants, financiers, bankers, comptrollers, lawyers, financial trustees, investors, brokers, etc. know that mm is an abbreviation for million--and "m" is an abreviation for "thousand", as laid out in Jstanek's post.

    Regardless, you make a valid point regarding usage and understanding. In summary, abbreviations, as with all written symbols and spoken words, should vary based upon your audience.
  20. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hello beam, and welcome to WordReference.
    On the basis of your statement, 99% of all English speaking ... etc are at odds with the SI international system of units and abbreviations.
    That's not at all unlikely, of course.
  21. I have never seen MM used for millions in BrE.

    I have often seen M for million and K for thousand, probably by analogy with Mega and Kilo in computerese. For example:

    £2.5K = £2,500 .............. two thousand five hundred pounds

    £2.5M = £2,500,000...........two million five hundred thousand pounds (or two and a half million pounds)
  22. beam88990 New Member

    In opening, thank you for the warm reception. Unfortunately, the “International System of Units”, or “SI” has nothing to do with this thread and doesn’t apply to my post—nor will anyone find an answer to the original question therein.

    The official name of the system you've referenced is “The International System of Units", or “SI”—and it’s actually a series of international treaties and agreements dating back to the “Treaty of the Meter” in 1875. It should be noted, the word 'abbreviation' is not contained in the title.

    The SI is maintained by the “International Bureau of Weights and Measures” (“BIPM”) and gets updated every few years at the General Conference on Weights and Measures (“CGPM”). gets a little technical but I like it. Otherwise, Rick Rowlett (the UNC professor) published some great information (Google his name and “SI System”).

    Anyways, the implication that my logic somehow defies the SI is wrong. The SI only regulates units of measurement (which are used in mathematics) and has nothing to do with abbreviations (which are used in grammar/writing). By writing “mm”, one is simply abbreviating a word that happens to be a number—they have merely abbreviated the Latin form of the word (twice).

    Back to the SI, there are strict guidelines regarding acceptable format. They DO NOT use “abbreviations”; they use “symbols”—and are very clear on this. Symbols do not follow the rules of grammar, instead the rules of mathematic symbols, which are universal.

    There are many differences between the two rule sets:

    - A symbol is never separated or ended with periods. He weighs 50 kg, not 50 kg. or 50 k.g.
    - A symbol is the same in every language—which is not the case with an abbreviated word. For example, “s” is the universal symbol for a second, which is the universal base unit for the measurement of time. A Mexican who doesn’t speak English wouldn’t know what “30 sec” means, he would write “30 seg”. The “s” is the universal symbol and was likely chosen for its semblance to the letter s found at the beginning of the actual word in most of the Latin-based languages.
    - A symbol is never physically altered to indicate that it is plural. Its Plurality is logically represented by the preceding numeric value. For example, in proper form, we write 50 kg and not 50 kgs. The "s" is so obviously redundant—yet it remains present in grammar and speech.

    Think about someone writing or saying “5 kilos.” This would be understood by most people but the speaker or writer must be aware of their audience—and the listeners aware of the context—just like when mm is used in place of a million. To illustrate, even though you probably thought about 5 kilograms when you first read “5 kilos” above, I could have been referring to 5 kilometers. Using kilos as an abbreviation for either is OK…and so is using mm for a million, depending on the audience, as written in my original post.

    In closing, while “M” may be commonly used to abbreviate 1,000,000 in informal writing, it’s somewhat improper and confusing because it is actually the Roman Numeral for 1,000. Adding a macron (a horizontal bar over the numeral) multiplies it by one thousand—thus the Roman numeral for 1,000,000 is an M with a bar on top, but who know how to type that on a keyboard…which is probably why it has been bastardized to just the M.

    Nonetheless, Jstanek’s and Pac74’s posts remain the best simple answers to the original question--that's just my opinion, of course.
  23. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I didn't question the use of MM to mean million, M to mean thousand, in the finance industry. I simply pointed out that in other contexts the symbol M represents a million.
    M is one of the standard prefixes in the SI system of units. It is used in many contexts and is familiar in specialist and lay contexts. Similarly, mm represents millimetre.

    Like others in this thread, I have not come across MM or mm being used to represent million, or M to represent thousand.

    So a response to the original question has to take into account, not unnaturally, the context. Several earlier posts have made this point (#6, 8, 17).
    If you know you are writing for a context in which MM or mm represents million, then by all means do so.
    If you are writing for a general context, be aware that many of your readers will be confused by this.
  24. George French Senior Member

    English - UK
    These can be found at:- wiki. Maybe if we used them universally ... (or should that be world-wide?)

  25. malonso2 New Member

    Illinois, Usa
    English - USA
    It does seem like 99% of US industry is at odds with the SI system and I can speak with experience, rather large companies Shell and P&G both use M as thousand and MM as Millions. I'm fairly confident a majority of the US industries that don't use SI use this convention. It is definitely nothing more than a convention however.
  26. George French Senior Member

    English - UK
    What do our cousins mean when they say Mega bucks in normal speech?
    If you want make sure looks like we have to write it out in full.

    1,000,000 is somewhat different to 1,000

  27. beam88990 New Member

    I'm not sure why people keep drawing comparisons to the SI system because it has absolutely nothing to do with this thread. SI regulates the use of “units of measurement” and assigns each one a SYMBOL (i.e. second = s, kilogram = kg, kilometer = km).

    They do NOT use abbreviations, which are entirely different than symbols. In summary, an abbreviation is the shortening of a word by omitting letters. Abbreviations are used in writing and are therefore subject to the rules of grammar—specifically, each individual language's grammatical rules--meaning that abbreviations can be and are different in every language.

    Symbols are used in mathematics (and science) and we therefore apply the universal rules of mathematics (and science) when using them. A symbol is an image, character, letter, or combination of same wholly used to represent something else. My above ranting post contains more details between the differences.

    Regardless of the differences between a symbol and an abbreviation, "million" is not a unit of measurement. It's a number…and therefore has nothing to do with the SI.

    Panjandrum was wrong in saying that my explanation, or the use of “mm” to represent “million”, somehow doesn't jive with the SI system. The SI system has nothing to do with the subject and contains no information responsive to the original post. I have merely cited it to disprove those who feel that 'mm' is not acceptable abbreviation because it's not contained in the SI. It’s not contained in the SI because the SI does not regulate the simple abbreviations of words in any language.
  28. Polixenes Member

    English - English
    I work in the reinsurance industry, and it is very commonplace to see MM written to mean million and M to mean thousand, when writing of money.

    (Note: usage is capital letters and not lower case as the original question asked).

    It's not universal though and you are quite likely to also see M for million and K for thousand. You have to use a little commonsense sometimes to figure out the intent but I am not personally aware of any instances where an initial confusion led to unhappy consequences.
  29. George French Senior Member

    English - UK
    That maybe true or not. Of course there is a very specific question at the start of the thread. Of course there is much noise arround it because there is no one universal standard that is universally used.

    Using m's and M's, US or UK billions and whatever else is quite dangerous unless one knows which formal or informal standards are being used/applied. All sorts of problems can occur in the original language and in translating.

    This thread has certainly demonstrated the potential problems, especially that we all have the problem of living in our own world not always realising that mm could be interpreted very differently by someonelse: resulting in many unfortunate consequences.

    Just be glad that this forum has much in it and that many of us now understand that there is a minefield out there....

    Last edited: Oct 27, 2008
  30. beam88990 New Member

    That's not correct. The statements I've posted are irrefutably true and are supported by facts (which are the bases of any logical argument).

    Specifically, the SI has nothing to do with this thread and an answer to the poster's question cannot be found therein--because the SI does not deal with the abbreviation of words--it deals with the assignment of a symbol to represent a unit of measurement. This cannot be argued--there is no "maybe this" or "maybe that". It's a fact.

    Beyond where I opined that two posted answers are the best ones, I'm not aware of any single statement which I've posted that can be refuted with facts.
  31. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    "Judge a person by his questions rather than by his answers." (Voltaire)

    This is shaping up to be one of those questions that does not have a single "right" answer for all people at all times in all places, or at least not one that we can reach together at this time. Shall we agree that we don't all agree and move on?

    This thread is closed.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2008
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