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

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 In this calculus, a deteriorating home life, like the one experienced by the Benedicts, receives relatively little weight. New York Times, 1 June 2022 Pushing Manchin out of the Democratic Party permanently changes the already tough calculus for securing a Senate majority. David Faris, The Week, 21 Apr. 2022 This is a powerful tool in calculus for modeling continuously changing quantities. Eugenia Cheng, WSJ, 21 Apr. 2022 The difference, Vahdat said, lies in a risk calculus. Washington Post, 14 Apr. 2022 That book is a colorful collection of 28 mathematical tales connecting concepts in calculus to art, literature, and all manner of things human beings grapple with on a daily basis. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 6 Apr. 2022 In the Margaritaville calculus, the benefits of good company outweigh the deleterious effects of alcohol. Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker, 21 Mar. 2022 And in the political and economic calculus that has become the core of public health messaging for weeks now, the Christmas season has loomed large. The New York Times, Arkansas Online, 25 Dec. 2021 But the bill also contains plenty for corporate America to dislike — particularly the tax increases that would pay for it — and in the cold calculus of corporate lobbying, industries are working hard to bring the whole enterprise down., 12 Sep. 2021 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for calculus

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The first known use of calculus was in 1666

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calculus of classes

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Last Updated

9 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Calculus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for calculus


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 calculus (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

More from Merriam-Webster on calculus

Nglish: Translation of calculus for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of calculus for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about calculus


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