bil·​lion | \ ˈbi(l)-yən How to pronounce billion (audio) \

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 How to pronounce billionth (audio) \ 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 The very act of giving bullhorns to billions is both a boon and a menace. Steven Levy, Wired, "Trump, Twitter, and the Failed Politics of Appeasement," 29 May 2020 For industry, that line item may seem minor in the context of a project that could cost hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars. Gordon Russell, ProPublica, "In “Cancer Alley,” Toxic Polluters Face Little Oversight From Environmental Regulators," 19 Dec. 2019 Federal relief arrives, but state cuts loom The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed last month included billions in aid for higher education. Jennifer Smola,, "COVID-19 pandemic costing Ohio colleges millions," 26 Apr. 2020 And with billions of stamps sold, that could be a very large number. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Post Office owes $3.5M for using wrong Statue of Liberty on a stamp," 6 July 2018 The missed funding comes as the state Department of Workforce Development reported the state fund that will cover that $25 million and billions more in unemployment payments could be depleted as early as October. Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin lost out on $25M in federal funding because GOP lawmakers waited to pass coronavirus relief bill," 7 May 2020 By 2070, billions could be living in a climate currently found only in a select few places, like Mecca in Saudi Arabia, where the average temperature is 86 F (30 C). NBC News, "Billions could face temperatures inhospitable to life in the next 50 years, study finds," 6 May 2020 The stakes are immense with the coronavirus sickening more than 3 million people, even as billions hide from the pathogen indoors. James Paton,, "Covid Exit Strategy Depends on Getting Vaccine to Whole World," 5 May 2020 Now, the federal government could have to fork up billions to health insurers who attempt to collect the money they're owed. Ashley Shaffer, USA TODAY, "Buckle up, it's time to self-swab," 27 Apr. 2020

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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Time Traveler for billion

Time Traveler

The first known use of billion was in 1690

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Cite this Entry

“Billion.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2020.

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How to pronounce billion (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of billion

: the number 1,000,000,000 : one thousand million
: a very large amount or number
British, old-fashioned : the number 1,000,000,000,000


bil·​lion | \ ˈbil-yən How to pronounce billion (audio) \

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

Spanish Central: Translation of billion

Nglish: Translation of billion for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of billion for Arabic Speakers

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