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

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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

This meant the subsidies to Foxconn would not be a tax write-off, but billions in cash that would be paid back by state income taxes paid by Foxconn workers. Bruce Murphy, The Verge, "Wisconsin’s $4.1 billion Foxconn boondoggle," 29 Oct. 2018 Council members focused on HQ2’s impact on infrastructure, transportation and housing prices; on the nondisclosure agreements signed by the city and the state; and on the billions in incentives promised to Amazon. Katie Honan, WSJ, "Amazon Executives, City Official Defend HQ2 Deal," 12 Dec. 2018 The question is whether or not the untold billions being invested into all-electric cars is any smarter, wiser or more prudent money than the untold billions that were mostly wasted on fuel celled cars. Ed Wallace, star-telegram, "Promises, Promises," 22 June 2018 Even handling a tenth of the many billions being splurged on roads, railways and so forth would double Islamic banks’ assets, Mr Bustaman reckons. The Economist, "The world’s biggest Muslim country wants to boost sharia finance," 10 May 2018 At stake are billions in payments to insurers with sicker customers., "Trump administration takes another swipe at ‘Obamacare’," 8 July 2018 Trump earned billions in free media and spent about half as much as Clinton throughout the campaign, a strategy that paid off. Matthew Kassel, Town & Country, "What Jared Kushner's Time at the Observer Can Tell Us About How He'll Advise Donald Trump," 7 Dec. 2016 Shell is a pretty good example of committing to investing $1 [billion] to $2 billion a year in renewables. Gaby Del Valle, Vox, "Can consumer choices ward off the worst effects of climate change? An expert explains.," 12 Oct. 2018 Yes, that's billions, which includes all à la carte options (like basic economy seat selection, or in-flight meals), hotel and car rentals booked through the airline, and more—basically everything that isn't your plane ticket. Meredith Carey, Condé Nast Traveler, "These Airlines Made the Most on Extra Fees Last Year," 19 Sep. 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.

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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)

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Statistics for billion

Last Updated

7 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for billion

The first known use of billion was in 1690

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on billion

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with billion

Spanish Central: Translation of billion

Nglish: Translation of billion for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of billion for Arabic Speakers

Comments on billion

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someone who never drinks alcohol

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