bil·​lion | \ˈbi(l)-yən \

Definition of billion 

1 US : a number equal to 1,000 million — see Table of Numbers also, British : a number equal to 1,000 milliard — see Table of Numbers

2 : a very large number

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from billion

billion adjective
billionth \ ˈbi(l)-​yən(t)th \ adjective or noun

Did You Know?

How much is a billion? It might depend who you ask. Billion was borrowed from French in the late 1600s to indicate the number one million raised to the power of two, or a million million - a number represented by a one followed by 12 zeros. However, the French later changed their naming conventions so that a billion became a thousand million (a one followed by nine zeros) and a trillion became a thousand thousand million (or a million million, the old billion). The French have since returned to the older system, but it was this new system that was adopted by American English speakers in the 1800s. In Britain the newer system has seen increasing use since the 1950s, but the older sense is still sometimes used there as well.

Examples of billion in a Sentence

We could see a billion stars in the sky.

Recent Examples on the Web

Last year, officials in Beijing began to cast a skeptical eye on Chinese companies that were buying billions in global assets with marquee names but little strategic value. Alexandra Stevenson, New York Times, "Wang Jian, Co-Founder of Chinese Giant HNA, Dies in France," 4 July 2018 The company has 160 million wireless subscribers in the U.S. and Canada, so getting those folks to spend more on their service promises billions in business. Jennifer Van Grove,, "What is AT&T thinking with WatchTV?," 23 June 2018 On paper, the United Bid, as the three-pronged effort is known, should breeze to victory with a portfolio of existing stadiums and infrastructure, experience hosting major sporting events and the promise of sellout crowds and billions in revenue. Steven Goff,, "North America is confident ahead of 2026 World Cup vote: 'We have a path to victory'," 11 June 2018 In Anchorage, nighttime flights are an important part of what makes the airport competitive for business and adds billions to the economy, Szczesniak said. Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News, "Readers had lots of questions about airplane noise from the airport’s runway closure. Here are some answers.," 10 July 2018 Private equity firms, with billions to invest, have taken significant stakes in the growing field. Peter Whoriskey,, "Unsolicited checks can be a lifeline and an albatross," 2 July 2018 Amazon and other tech companies with billions to burn? Peter Kafka, Recode, "AT&T can buy Time Warner, and everyone else can buy everything else," 12 June 2018 For the technological giant that has made its billions in advertising, X isn’t a junk drawer for unusual projects that don’t fit elsewhere in the corporate structure. Alex Davies, WIRED, "Inside X, the Moonshot Factory Racing to Build the Next Google," 11 July 2018 Past research has found 1 meter of sea-level rise could cost the National Park Service billions of dollars. Adam Aton, Scientific American, "Government Sea Level Rise Report Released After Charges of Censorship," 21 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'billion.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of billion

1690, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for billion

French, from bi- + -illion (as in million)

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about billion

Listen to Our Podcast about billion

Statistics for billion

Last Updated

11 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for billion

The first known use of billion was in 1690

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for billion



English Language Learners Definition of billion

: the number 1,000,000,000 : one thousand million

: a very large amount or number

: the number 1,000,000,000,000


bil·​lion | \ˈbil-yən \

Kids Definition of billion

1 : a thousand millions

2 : a very large number billions of stars

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on billion

What made you want to look up billion? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a trusted follower

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!