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

Theirs is a military mission with billions of civilian customers added on. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "PM Interview: The Guardians of Orbit," 22 Mar. 2019 The National Climate Assessment reported that by the end of the century, climate change could suck hundred billions of dollars out the US economy. Julia Belluz, Vox, "7 bad science and health ideas that should die with 2018," 26 Dec. 2018 In the last 30 years, much smaller-magnitude quakes in California—Northridge’s 6.7 in 1994 and Loma Prieta’s 6.9 in 1989—caused billions in damage and killed more than 50 people each. Alissa Walker, Curbed, "Alaska’s earthquake didn’t kill anyone—here’s why," 3 Dec. 2018 The Chinese government has been working furiously on high-performance computing in recent years, investing billions in its tech industry. Josh Axelrod, CNN, "This computer can do more calculations per second than the world's population could do in a year," 9 June 2018 The project will consume billions in government funding and taking nearly 20 years to bear fruit. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "U.K. Introduces New Fighter Jet: The Tempest," 16 July 2018 Until 2016, the owner of the Anzhi Football Club was Suleyman Kerimov, a Russian oligarch and lawmaker who made billions in oil, mining and finance. Mike Ives, New York Times, "Chinese Fans Paid Dearly for World Cup Tickets That Never Materialized," 21 June 2018 Well known in Canada, the Shermans made billions in the pharmaceutical industry, then gave a significant chunk of their fortune away to charity. Amy B Wang And Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Washington Post, "Billionaire couple from Toronto was murdered by multiple people, private investigators say," 21 Jan. 2018 And listen, Bill, the Iranian regime has not been building roads and bridges with the billions that flowed in as part of the Iran deal. Fox News, "Lt. Col. Michael Waltz on tensions between Iran, Israel," 11 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.

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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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Last Updated

15 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for billion

The first known use of billion was in 1690

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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

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

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


a strong desire or propensity

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