Chapter 20: Numerals in Greek and Latin

§129. English Number Names Beyond One Million

Wherever English is spoken, the figure 1,000,000 (106) has the English name of million (< MF milion < OIt. milione, an augmentative derived from L mille (1,000). Etymologically, then, a million is a “big thousand.”

Number words beyond a million are formed from Latin numeral prefixes plus the spurious base -(i)llion (by analogy from million). The nomenclature is confusing, for two reasons:

1. The numerical values differ in American and British usage.

2. The words themselves combine two sets of standard Latin prefixes. (If the usual Latin sequence had been followed, quintillion and sextillion would be quinquillion and sexillion.)

Except for the British milliard, which was adopted from French in 1823, most of these words date from the late 17th century.

Number of groups of three 0’s after 1,000 Powers of a million
109 billion 2 milliard
1012 trillion 3 billion 2
1014 quadrillion 4
1018 quintillion 5 trillion (1690) 3
1021 sextillion 6
1024 septillion 7 quadrillion (1674) 4


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Greek and Latin Roots: Part II - Greek Copyright © 2016 by Peter Smith (Estate) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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