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 Millions of French consume billions of baguettes each year, and not just as fuel. John Leicester, The Christian Science Monitor, "In France, buying baguettes daily becomes a moral choice," 26 Mar. 2020 Conversely, with lockdowns of months, if not years, life largely stops, short-term and long-term consequences are entirely unknown, and billions, not just millions, of lives may be eventually at stake. John P.a. Ioannidis, STAT, "A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data," 17 Mar. 2020 After switching to a system based on data from billions of airline passenger itineraries, BlueDot was able to determine almost instantaneously which cities worldwide were most at risk if the mystery illness spread. Chris Morris, Fortune, "Coronavirus catch-up: Stocks plunge, restaurants and schools close, and vaccine trials begin," 16 Mar. 2020 The information centers on URLs shared by Facebook’s billions of users—specifically, the 38 million of these that were shared more than 100 times on Facebook between January 1, 2017, and July 31, 2019. Steven Levy, Wired, "The Social Network Becomes a Social Science Subject," 14 Feb. 2020 Peapod is facing withering competition in the grocery delivery business as some of the biggest players in the industry including Kroger, Amazon and Walmart, invest billions in their digital operations. Joe Taschler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Are you a Peapod customer in Milwaukee? Order your groceries now. The company is leaving the market.," 12 Feb. 2020 But there is a lot at stake even beyond the billions in sponsorships and television money: many people orient their entire lives toward those two brief weeks. Louisa Thomas, The New Yorker, "Watching Sports in a Season of the Coronavirus," 6 Mar. 2020 Domestic oil and gas production are filling state’s coffers with billions in tax dollars. WSJ, "Joe Biden Does Not Support a Fracking Ban," 2 Feb. 2020 If just a portion of the billions spent on tickets each year was directed to carbon-reduction efforts, the music industry—and the world—could change for the better. Eleanor Cummins, Popular Science, "How musicians like Radiohead and Massive Attack are making their tours less stressful on the environment," 31 Jan. 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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Statistics for billion

Last Updated

31 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Billion.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Mar. 2020.

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More Definitions for billion


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

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

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