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

Will a title change the calculus, or does the sunshine of Los Angeles prove too alluring? Michael Shapiro,, "Five Big Questions Surrounding Kawhi Leonard's NBA Free Agency," 25 June 2019 The calculus of technology and geography — never simple — has been rendered more complicated by Mr. Trump’s trade war. Peter S. Goodman, New York Times, "Globalization Is Moving Past the U.S. and Its Vision of World Order," 19 June 2019 This is, to some extent, a reflection of the electoral calculus that has guided the GOP for much of the last two-and-a-half years: Trump must be protected for the sake of the party’s electoral future. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Corruption Is the Tie that Binds for Trump-Era Republicans," 11 June 2019 This might seem like poor political calculus, to move forward with the confirmation of a potentially damaged individual. Dylan Scott, Vox, "The very simple reason Republicans are fighting so hard for Brett Kavanaugh," 24 Sep. 2018 And his best bet to get that nod would come from Warren, for reasons that involve the inevitably crass calculus of identity politics. Gilbert Garcia,, "Wednesday debate could offer preview of Warren-Castro ticket," 22 June 2019 This calculus is lost on the man who this week presides over America’s formal D-Day commemoration. Jeffrey A. Engel, Twin Cities, "Jeffrey Engel: The lesson of D-Day for Americans today," 6 June 2019 Her outlook represents a careful political calculus. Alana Abramson, Time, "Activists Ramp Up Pressure on Congress to Start Impeachment Hearings," 5 June 2019 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

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

14 Jul 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).


characterized by aphorism

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