Word of the day: Milliard

Today’s word: milliard (Fr) and milliárd (Hu).

In English, it means “billion.”

Coins image from lusi at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1155329.

Sources agree that this term appeared in Middle French as an adaptation of the term “million.” The oldest attestations of use date to the early 16th century.

“Billion” belongs to two different number-naming systems, the long scale and the short scale.  Be careful when you see “billion” in a non-English text—this word can mean two very different numbers! In the short-scale system (with which Americans are most familiar), “billion” equals 1,000,000,000. The prefix bi- here refers to the multiplication of one thousand by one thousand squared (1,000 x 1,000^2). In the long-scale system (used by the French and Hungarians), the prefix bi- refers to the exponent of one million (1,000,000^2), producing the number 1,000,000,000,000.


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