# Naked Science Forum

## General Science => General Science => Topic started by: DrDick on 13/04/2007 17:15:21

Title: what is a billion? trillion?
Post by: DrDick on 13/04/2007 17:15:21
OK, my turn for a question.  I learned a long time ago that the word billion has different meanings on the two sides of the pond.  In the US, a billion is a thousand million, while in the UK (and other countries?) a billion is a million million.

Here are the US meanings (and I know, the commas are an Americanism, too):

million = 1,000,000 = 10^6
billion = 1,000,000,000 = 10^9
trillion = 1,000,000,000,000 = 10^12

So, what are the UK meanings?

Dick
Title: what is a billion? trillion?
Post by: neilep on 13/04/2007 17:20:28
Hello DrDick,

I know there is a wiki entry that explains the ambiguities between the two versions..I'll try and find it if you wish...but I think having someone post the answer would be better....

Great question...great to see you.
Title: what is a billion? trillion?
Post by: Seany on 13/04/2007 17:23:24
Billion

Billion may mean:

Either of two numbers (see long and short scales for more detail):
1,000,000,000 (one thousand million; 10^9) - increasingly common meaning in English-language usage

1,000,000,000,000 (one million million; 10^12) - increasingly rare meaning in English-language usage; standard meaning in many other languages
Title: what is a billion? trillion?
Post by: Seany on 13/04/2007 17:23:45
Trillion
Trillion may mean either of the two numbers (see long and short scales for more detail):

1,000,000,000,000 (one million million; 1012) - increasingly common meaning in English language usage.

1,000,000,000,000,000,000 (one million million million; 1018) - increasingly rare meaning in English language usage
Title: what is a billion? trillion?
Post by: Seany on 13/04/2007 17:24:25

Quadrillion may mean either of the two numbers (see long and short scales for more detail):

1,000,000,000,000,000 (one thousand trillion; 1015) - increasingly common meaning in English language usage

1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1024) - increasingly rare meaning in English language usage
Title: what is a billion? trillion?
Post by: DrDick on 13/04/2007 17:50:36
OK, I get it.  So each new word is a million of the former one.

1 billion = 1 million million
1 trillion = 1 million billion
1 quadrillion = 1 million trillion
etc.

(in Queen's English usage, anyway)

Thanks,
Dick
Title: what is a billion? trillion?
Post by: Seany on 13/04/2007 17:52:04
Yup. Your Welcome [:D] Wikipedia is so handy lol
Title: what is a billion? trillion?
Post by: Batroost on 13/04/2007 20:08:25
Guess again...

The Bank of England adopted the '1000 Million = 1 Billion' American definition about twenty years ago, and in practice, everyone else followed suit. Whenever you hear someone talk about a Billion Pounds or a Billion People this is the definition they are using.
Title: what is a billion? trillion?
Post by: Bored chemist on 14/04/2007 15:32:57
If anyone's interested the English word for 10^9 is milliard
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milliard
Title: what is a billion? trillion?
Post by: Seany on 14/04/2007 17:24:06
A milliard. What's the difference between that and a billion?
Title: what is a billion? trillion?
Post by: Bored chemist on 15/04/2007 14:33:28
According to this site
http://www.solfire.com/scrabble/
The difference between a milliard and a billion is 2 points if you are playing scrabble.
The word milliard has the advantage that nobody thinks it means 10^12 but it also has the disadvantage that practically nobody knows what it does mean.
Title: what is a billion? trillion?
Post by: eric l on 15/04/2007 15:26:29
Guess again...

The Bank of England adopted the '1000 Million = 1 Billion' American definition about twenty years ago, and in practice, everyone else followed suit. Whenever you hear someone talk about a Billion Pounds or a Billion People this is the definition they are using.
The problem remains that this has not been addopted by other languages, at least not in Europe !  There is more logic in billion being "one million to the second power", trillion "one billion to the third power" and so on.
Title: what is a billion? trillion?
Post by: Batroost on 15/04/2007 19:53:01
Quote
this has not been addopted by other languages, at least not in Europe

Though strangely, both systems were invented by the French!

I agree that sticking with powers of a million might be more logical - but languages develop through common usageand not always in a logical manner. Personally, I think a system based on powers of a 1000 is more userful in the real world; it's no more ilogical than calling our 9th month September, our 10th October and so on.