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Confused about millions, milliards and billions?!
Millions and billions
The long and short scales are two large-number naming systems used throughout the world. Many countries, including most in continental Europe, use the long scale whereas most English-speaking countries and Arabic-speaking countries use the short scale.
Long scale is the English translation of the French term échelle longue. It refers to a system of large-number names in which every new term greater than million is a million times the previous term. Thus, billion means a million millions (1012), trillion means a million billions (1018), and so on.
Short scale is the English translation of the French term échelle courte. It refers to a system of large-number names in which every new term greater than million is 1,000 times the previous term. Thus, billion means a thousand millions (109), trillion means a thousand billions (1012), and so on
For integers less than a thousand million (<109), the two scales are identical. At and above a thousand million (≥109), the two scales diverge by using the same words for different number values. These "false friends" can be a source of misunderstanding!
For most of the 19th and 20th centuries, the UK used the long scale, while the USA used the short scale. In 1974, the UK government switched to the short scale.
Scientific Numerals Short Scale Long Scale
notation (English) (non-English)
100 1 one one
101 10 ten ten
102 100 hundred hundred
103 1,000 thousand thousand
104 10,000 ten thousand ten thousand
105 100,000 hundred thousand hundred thousand
106 1,000,000 million million
109 1,000,000,000 billion thousand million/milliard
1012 1,000,000,000,000 trillion billion