What exactly is a billion in the UK?

...   Saturday, September 27, 2003, 23:54 GMT

This is how one British dictionaries defines it:
1. A number equivalent to 1 000 000 000.
2. (British, dated) A number equivalent to 1 000 000 000 000.

This is how another British dictionary defines it:
1. (British) A number equivalent to 1 000 000 000 000.
2. (Chiefly American) A number equivalent to 1 000 000 000.

This is how an American dictionary defines it:
1. (American) A number equivalent to 1 000 000 000.
2. (British, dated) A number equivalent to 1 000 000 000 000.

Exactly what number do most British refer to when they say billion? Fine, if a guy say that a billion is 1 000 000 000 000, he's certainly British but some dictionaries say that 1 000 000 000 000's "dated". Or is there a difference between what old and young Britons mean when they say billion? Jolly well confusing, I say.
...   Saturday, September 27, 2003, 23:57 GMT
To make things clearer:

British dictionary 1 says that 10^9 is common usage everywhere while 10^12 is dated British usage. Fine.

British dictionary 2 says that 10^12 is common British usage while 10^9 is common American usage. Fine but contradictory to the first dictionary.

The American dictionary says that 10^9 is common American usage while 10^12 is dated British usage. Whatever happened to common British usage?
Jim   Monday, September 29, 2003, 00:56 GMT
I can't really speak for the situation in the UK but in Australia the word "billion" is usually used to mean a thousand million. It used to be used for a million million.

The influence of the USA has had it's effect on Australian English. An ill-effect in many cases ... most cases if you ask me. Certainly it's an ill-effect in this case. If ever I say billion, I mean a million million because this system makes a whole lot more sense.

In the Commonwealth system ... be it dated or otherwise

bi = 2 ===>> billion = (million)^2
tri = 3 ===>> trillion = (million)^3
quad = 4 ===>> quadrillion = (million)^4
quint = 5 ===>> quintillion = (million)^5
sext = 6 ===>> sextillion = (million)^6
sept = 7 ===>> septillion = (million)^7
oct = 8 ===>> octillion = (million)^8
nov = ===>> novillion = (million)^9
dec = 10 ===>> decillion = (million)^10

There is a very simple formular at work here:
n-illion = (million)^n

In the American system things are not so straight forward

bi = 2 ===>> billion = thousand*(thousand)^2
tri = 3 ===>> trillion = thousand*(thousand)^3
quad = 4 ===>> quadrillion = thousand*(thousand)^4
quint = 5 ===>> quintillion = thousand*(thousand)^5
sext = 6 ===>> sextillion = thousand*(thousand)^6
sept = 7 ===>> septillion = thousand*(thousand)^7
oct = 8 ===>> octillion = thousand*(thousand)^8
nov = ===>> novillion = thousand*(thousand)^9
dec = 10 ===>> decillion = thousand*(thousand)^10

The formula is no longer so easy and logical:
n-illion = thousand*(thousand)^n

Thanx USA for screwing things up again.

Oh, well, enough of my getting my knickers in a knot. In Australia, British dictionary 2 would not be correct and I'd guessthe same would be true in the UK.
...   Monday, September 29, 2003, 01:20 GMT
Thank you, Jim, for the informational part of your post.

Jim's entitled to his opinion but I think an argument can be made for the logic of the American system: A million is a thousand thousand so it naturally follows that a billion is a thousand million.
Jim   Monday, September 29, 2003, 04:10 GMT
I do tend to get carried away at times. For informative part of your post your welcome.

Sure, the American system has some logic but if your arguement is that it has more logic than the Commonwealth one, that's your opinion which you're entitled to too, but I'd have to dissagree.

Sorry, if I come across as if I think all things American suck. This is not what I think at all but what I do think is that the British had it right on this one.

A million certainly is a thousand thousand but I can't see how it could possibly follow naturally from this that a billion should be a thousand million. Think as I might about it I can see no straight forward logic there at all ... Nope, you might as well say "a thousand is ten hundred so it follows naturally that a million should be ten thousand."

The Commonwealth system, on the other hand does make sense, the word "billion" is made up of two bits. The "illion" refers to "million" and the "bi" refers to "two" as in "A billion is a million to the power of two." There's no mention of "thousand" there at all nor is there any natural feeling for a need to bring it up. The same is true for "trillion", "quadrillion" and the rest of the mob.

There I go rambling on again, sorry if I bore anyone. This is just my opinion. I just find it a shame that such a sensible system in on the out. Though, I'd have to admit that that American system can be less cumbersome at times, e.g. "a quadrillion" is easier to say than "a thousand billion" (or, for that matter, "a million millard").

I'm interested in the opinions of others on the issue of these words. Let's debate which is better. Perhaps we could resolve the problem with "bousand", "trousand", "quadrousand", etc. (these are words of my own invention).

bi = 2 ===>> bousand = (thousand)^2
tri = 3 ===>> trousand = (thousand)^3
quad = 4 ===>> quadrousand = (thousand)^4
quint = 5 ===>> quintousand = (thousand)^5
Jim   Monday, September 29, 2003, 04:40 GMT
What am I writing here?

"For informative part of your post your welcome."

I meant to write:

"For informative part of my post you're welcome."

By the way, I don't think you should expect different dictionaries to agree with eachother. They can even contracict themselves. Compare these, for example:

mammal [Show phonetics]
noun [C]
any animal of which the female gives birth to babies, not eggs, and feeds them on milk from her own body:
Humans, dogs, elephants and dolphins are all mammals, but birds, fish and crocodiles are not.


platypus [Show phonetics]
noun [C] (ALSO duck-billed platypus)
an Australian river mammal with a wide beak whose young are born from eggs

Boy   Monday, September 29, 2003, 04:56 GMT
Thanks for teaching me a math lesson. I'm fooled up now. This million thing is getting on my nerves when you have two popular systems such as Amr and Br. The only thing that I know right now: :-)

India has the population of one billion people. In which system it'll be mathematically corrected.
Boy   Monday, September 29, 2003, 05:01 GMT
Jim, I've a quiz for you that my friend asked me a long time ago.

If there is an animal, how will you indentify it, is this a mammal or a non-mammal? (3 marks) No details. Just be precise with your answer.

Simon   Monday, September 29, 2003, 05:34 GMT
With the US dominating Science and Business, especially in the English speaking world, a different British billion was always going to have a rough time. To me, a billion just means "a lot". But that's just me - I'm stupid.
Jim   Monday, September 29, 2003, 06:28 GMT
India has a population of about one American billion people (not a billion American people).

How would I identify whether an animal is a mammal or not. First I'd look to see if it had hair, if so, it's a mammal. But it's not easy to find hair on all mammals (ever seen a hair dolphine?).

That's how I'd go if I were to glance at an amimal that I didn't recognise. This is not really that good if you want a definition of what a mammal is.

My more precise answer is "A mammal is member of any species of animal of which the mother feeds her babies on milk from her own body or made from powder that she bought at the shop."

Do I get the three marks? Too much detail?
A.S.C.M.   Monday, September 29, 2003, 06:40 GMT
A mammal has mammary glands.

That's the most short, crisp, and precise answer I can think of. I hope my assertation holds true in all cases.
Jim   Monday, September 29, 2003, 06:43 GMT
It holds true in half the cases: only adult females have those glands.
A.S.C.M.   Monday, September 29, 2003, 06:46 GMT
Indians have strange numbers such as "lac", which they use even when talking in English. This baffles non-Indians.

This is not to say that the Indians are not entitled to have their own number systems. The message I'm trying to get across is that the Indians should use "lac" when speaking their own languages and "a hundred thousand" when speaking English. After all, when you go to Hong Kong, you will never hear the people there saying "one bak" (one hundred) or "one mahn" (ten thousand) in English. So if Hong Kongers can adjust, why can't Indians?
A.S.C.M.   Monday, September 29, 2003, 06:52 GMT
Yes, very true, Jim. And yet, my Biology textbook says "mammals were defined by Linnaeus by their possession of mammary glands."

Now, here's my second answer to the question:
If it's a male animal,
a) Somehow force it to excrete. If it's a mammal, either urine or dung would come out.
b) Kill the animal, cut open its body, and observe the heart. A mammal should have a four-chambered heart.
If the animal fits both of the above classifications, it is definitely a mammal.
Simon   Monday, September 29, 2003, 07:01 GMT
So perhaps I misheard the Indian who said "you have a lack of good points".