cal·​cu·​lus | \ ˈkal-kyə-ləs How to pronounce calculus (audio) \
plural calculi\ ˈkal-​kyə-​ˌlī How to pronounce calculi (audio) , -​ˌlē \ also calculuses

Definition of calculus

1a : a method of computation or calculation in a special notation (as of logic or symbolic logic)
b : the mathematical methods comprising differential and integral calculus often used with the
2 : calculation … even political conservatives agree that an economic calculus must give way to a strategic consciousness when national or global security is at stake.— Stephen H. Schneider
3a : a concretion usually of mineral salts around organic material found especially in hollow organs or ducts
4 : a system or arrangement of intricate or interrelated parts

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Did You Know?

In Latin calculus meant “pebble.” Because the Romans used pebbles to do addition and subtraction on a counting board, the word became associated with computation. Other English derivatives include calculator and calculation. Calculus itself has been borrowed into English as a medical term that refers to masses of matter in the body such as kidney stones (a straightforward extension of the meaning “pebble”) and to refer to a system of mathematical computation.

Examples of calculus in a Sentence

by my calculus the more efficient air conditioner will have paid for itself within a span of five years

Recent Examples on the Web

The political calculus could be simpler for Democrats if Judge Kavanaugh appears almost certain to be confirmed. Jonathan Martin, New York Times, "For Midterms, Supreme Court Political Drama Plays to Its Audience," 11 July 2018 If the White House hoped that refusing to apologize would create uncertainty about whether Sadler really spoke dismissively of the ailing McCain, the calculus was wrong. Callum Borchers, Washington Post, "The White House’s refusal to apologize to McCain is extending a bad story," 14 May 2018 When my parents divorced a few years ago, the calculus shifted. Karen K. Ho, Glamour, "You’re Supposed to Outgrow Vacation With Your Mom. I’m So Glad I Haven’t," 10 May 2019 House Republicans, though, face a different calculus. Lisa Mascaro, The Seattle Times, "Senate GOP wary in Trump’s revived health care battle," 1 Apr. 2019 But the claim that all talc products have been asbestos-free since this time has come under scrutiny in the latest Reuters investigation and makes the risk calculus much more complicated. Tara C. Smith, SELF, "How Worried Do You Need to Be About Asbestos in Baby Powder and Other Talc Products?," 31 Jan. 2019 Holding the World Cup inspires a similar calculus, especially after an investigation by FIFA, the international football association, cleared Russia of bribing its way to the role. New York Times, "A Chance for Putin to Woo the World, Thanks to Soccer and Trump," 13 June 2018 Pauker said the math competition is much more individual with participants taking tests in subjects like algebra, geometry and pre-calculus. Steve Sadin,, "Glenbrook South gymnast Lucas Pauker keeps busy with multiple state meets," 1 May 2018 Baker teaches Advanced Placement calculus to about 90 students at Thunderbird High School in Phoenix, and their AP exams start next week. Kaila White, azcentral, "Some Arizona parents and students grow weary of school closures," 1 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'calculus.' 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 calculus

1666, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for calculus

Latin, stone (used in reckoning)

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Statistics for calculus

Last Updated

16 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for calculus

The first known use of calculus was in 1666

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More Definitions for calculus



English Language Learners Definition of calculus

: an advanced branch of mathematics that deals mostly with rates of change and with finding lengths, areas, and volumes


cal·​cu·​lus | \ ˈkal-kyə-ləs How to pronounce calculus (audio) \

Kids Definition of calculus

: a branch of mathematics that deals mostly with rates of change and with finding lengths, areas, and volumes


cal·​cu·​lus | \ -ləs How to pronounce calculus (audio) \
plural calculi\ -​ˌlī, -​ˌlē How to pronounce calculi (audio) \ also calculuses

Medical Definition of calculus

1 : a concretion usually of mineral salts around organic material found especially in hollow organs or ducts
2 : a concretion on teeth : tartar

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Comments on calculus

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


to take the place or position of

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