Did You Know?
Probably of Babylonian origin, an abacus is a calculating instrument that uses beads that slide along a series of wires or rods set in a frame to represent the decimal places. It is the ancestor of the modern digital calculator. Used by merchants in the Middle Ages throughout Europe and the Arabic world, it was gradually replaced by arithmetic based on Hindu-Arabic numerals. Though rarely used in Europe past the 18th century, it is still used in the Middle East, China, and Japan.
Origin and Etymology of abacus
Latin, from Greek abak-, abax, literally, slab
First Known Use: 14th centurySee Words from the same year
Financial Definition of ABACUS
What It Is
An abacus is a counting device that performs basic mathematical functions.
How It Works
The abacus is believed to have been developed in the ancient Near East in the third millennium BCE. An abacus consists of a series of thin parallel bars set into a rectangular frame, usually made of wood. Each bar contains a number of beads that slide along its length. Individuals use the beads as number counters and use the abacus to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Why It Matters
The abacus has been in continuous use since its conception. It is still widely used in Far Eastern cultures including China and Japan.
ABACUS Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of abacus for English Language Learners
: a device used for counting and calculating by sliding small balls or beads along rods or in grooves
ABACUS Defined for Kids
Definition of abacus for Students
: an instrument for doing arithmetic by sliding counters along rods or in grooves
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