Definition of googol
: the figure 1 followed by 100 zeros equal to 10100
googol was our Word of the Day on 10/23/2015. Hear the podcast!
google vs. googol
The verb google and the noun googol are commonly confused because they have similar pronunciations. Google is the word that is more common to us now, and so it is sometimes mistakenly used as a noun to refer to the number 10100. That number is a googol, so named by Milton Sirotta, the nephew of the American mathematician Edward Kasner, who was working with large numbers like 10100. Google, on the other hand, is the name of a search engine as well as a verb that refers to searching the Internet using the Google search engine. (The search engine’s name was inspired by the number: the founders of Google chose the name to reflect their mission “to organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web.”) You can remember that the number is spelled googol by remembering that a googol has lots of o’s.
Two related words, googolplex and googleplex, are also commonly confused. A googolplex is the number 1 followed by a googol of zeros; the Googleplex is the Mountain View, California headquarters of Google.
Did You Know?
Around 1930, American mathematician Edward Kasner found himself working with numbers as large as 10 to the 100th power - that's a one followed by 100 zeroes. While it is possible to write that number using standard scientific notation, Dr. Kasner felt that it deserved a name of its own. According to his own account, Dr. Kasner asked his nine-year-old nephew, Milton Sirotta, to pick a name, promising the boy that he would use the word in the future. Milton made up the word googol, and so the enormous number was christened. Dr. Kasner kept his promise, and the word has spread and been widely adopted by mathematicians and the general public alike.
Origin and Etymology of googol
coined by Milton Sirotta b ab 1929 nephew of Edward Kasner †1955 American mathematician
First Known Use: 1937
Learn More about googol
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up googol? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).