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

That is the impossible calculus for her as the world waits for Susan Collins’s decision. Dylan Scott, Vox, "Susan Collins, one of the most important swing votes on Kavanaugh’s nomination, explained," 29 Sep. 2018 But the debacle over the Dodgers channel changed the calculus for the entire industry, Gajo said. Meg James,, "Relief for long-suffering Dodgers fans? Don't bet on new TV deals for SportsNet LA," 15 June 2018 Those events probably would change the political calculus for a deal and the content required in a final agreement to win legislative approval., "Trump Pushing for Preliminary Nafta Deal by Mid-April, Sources Say," 3 Apr. 2018 About 300 million people around the world use Quora at least once a month to ask and answer questions about politics, faith, calculus, unrequited love, the meaning of life and more; by comparison, Twitter claims 326 million monthly active users. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: The one about Netflix’s $100 million ‘Friends’ deal," 5 Dec. 2018 But the historic nature of the moment does nothing to change the political calculus. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Dems face big loss, big opportunity with Kavanaugh," 10 July 2018 And, from a raw political calculus, Trump and the GOP also get a boost heading into the midterm elections from a conservative voter base that will be galvanized anew by a polarizing Supreme Court confirmation battle. Liz Goodwin,, "Kennedy’s retirement gives Trump another chance to make long-term impact," 28 June 2018 Instruction and practice modules offer measurement and geometry for kindergartners and college-level multivariable calculus, art history, computer programming and global finance. Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle, "Sal Khan creates online academy to educate anyone in world for free," 21 Jan. 2018 In the calculus of Hollywood moviemaking, keeping a marquee director like Christopher Nolan happy can be an executive’s No. 1 priority, since losing out on his next movie could mean losing some $500 million in box-office grosses. Erich Schwartzel, WSJ, "Is an Oscar Campaign Worth the Time and Money?," 22 Feb. 2019

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

21 Apr 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 move or proceed with twists and turns

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