Short Scale

The long and short scales are two of several different large-number naming systems used throughout the world for integer powers of ten. The names are from the English translation of the French terms échelle longue and échelle courte. Many countries, including most in continental Europe, use the long scale whereas most English-speaking countries and Arabic-speaking countries use the short scale. In all such countries, the number names are translated into the local language, but retain a name similarity due to shared etymology. Some languages, particularly in East Asia and South Asia, have large number naming systems that are different from both the long and short scales.[1][2]

Long scale: 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.[1][2]
Short scale: Every new term greater than million is a thousand times the previous term. Thus, billion means a thousand millions (109), trillion means a thousand billions (1012), and so on.[1][2]

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 century into the first part of the 20th, the United Kingdom largely used the long scale,[3][4] while the United States of America used the short scale,[3] so that the two systems were often referred to as British and American in the English language. After several decades of increasing British usage of the short scale, in 1974, the government of the UK finally fully adopted it, which is reflected in its mass media and official usage.[5][6][7][8][9][10] With very few exceptions, [11] the British usage and American usage are now identical.

The first recorded use of the terms échelle courte and échelle longue was by the French mathematician Geneviève Guitel in 1975.[1][2]


At and above a thousand million (≥ 109), the same numerical value has two different names, depending on whether the value is being expressed in the long or short scale. Equivalently, the same name has two different numerical values depending on whether it is being used in the long or short scale.

Each scale has a logical justification to explain the use of each such differing numerical name and value within that scale. The short-scale logic is based on powers of one thousand, whereas the long-scale logic is based on powers of one million. In both scales, the prefix bi- refers to "2" and tri- refers to "3", etc. However only in the long scale do the prefixes beyond one million indicate the actual power or exponent (of 1,000,000). In the short scale, the prefixes refer to one less than the exponent (of 1,000).

The relationship between the numeric values and the corresponding names in the two scales can be described as:

 Value in
Scientific notation 
 Metric prefix   Value in
 Short Scale   Long Scale 
Prefix Symbol Name Logic Name Logic
 100       one  one
 101  deca  da  10   ten  ten
 102  hecto  100   hundred  hundred
 103  kilo  1,000   thousand  thousand
 104      10,000   ten thousand  ten thousand
 105      100,000   hundred thousand  hundred thousand
 106  mega  1,000,000   million 1,000×1,0001  million 1,000,0001
 109  giga  1,000,000,000   billion 1,000×1,0002  thousand million or milliard
 1012  tera  1,000,000,000,000   trillion 1,000×1,0003  billion 1,000,0002
 1015  peta  1,000,000,000,000,000   quadrillion 1,000×1,0004  thousand billion or billiard
 1018  exa  1,000,000,000,000,000,000   quintillion 1,000×1,0005  trillion 1,000,0003
 1021  zetta  1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000   sextillion 1,000×1,0006  thousand trillion or trilliard
 1024  yotta  1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000   septillion 1,000×1,0007  quadrillion 1,000,0004
  etc.       To get from one named order of magnitude
to the next: multiply by 1,000
To get from one named order of magnitude
to the next: multiply by 1,000,000

The relationship between the names and the corresponding numeric values in the two scales can be described as:

 Name   Short Scale   Long Scale 
 Value in
Scientific notation 
 Metric prefix  Logic   Value in
Scientific notation 
 Metric prefix  Logic 
 Prefix  Symbol  Prefix  Symbol
million 106 mega M  1,000×1,0001  106 mega M  1,000,0001 
billion 109 giga G  1,000×1,0002  1012 tera T  1,000,0002 
trillion 1012 tera T  1,000×1,0003  1018 exa E  1,000,0003 
quadrillion 1015 peta P  1,000×1,0004  1024 yotta Y  1,000,0004 
etc. To get from one named order of magnitude
to the next: multiply by 1,000
To get from one named order of magnitude
to the next: multiply by 1,000,000

The root mil in "million" does not refer to the numeral "one". The word million derives from the Old French milion from the earlier Old Italian milione, an intensification of the Latin word mille, a thousand. That is, a million is a "big thousand", much as a "great gross" is a dozen gross or 1728.[12]

The word milliard, or its translation, is found in many European languages and is used in those languages for 109. However, it is unknown in American English, which uses billion, and not used in British English, which preferred to use thousand million before the current usage of billion. The financial term yard, which derives from milliard, is used on financial markets, as, unlike the term billion, it is internationally unambiguous and phonetically distinct from million. Likewise, many long scale countries use the word billiard (or similar) for a thousand long scale billions (i.e. 1015), and the word trilliard (or similar) for a thousand long scale trillions (i.e. 1021), etc.[13][14][15][16][17]


The existence of the different scales means that care must be taken when comparing large numbers between languages or countries, or when interpreting old documents in countries where the dominant scale has changed over time. For example, British-English, French, and Italian historical documents can refer to either the short or long scale, depending on the date of the document, since each of the three countries has used both systems at various times in its history. Today, the United Kingdom officially uses the short scale, but France and Italy use the long scale.

The pre-1974 former British English word billion, post-1961 current French word billion, post-1994 current Italian word bilione, German Billion; Dutch biljoen; Swedish biljon; Finnish biljoona; Danish billion; Polish bilion, Spanish billón; Slovenian bilijon and the European Portuguese word bilião (with an alternate spelling to the Brazilian Portuguese variant) all refer to 1012, being long-scale terms. Therefore, each of these words translates to the American English or post-1974 modern British English word: trillion (1012 in the short scale), and not billion (109 in the short scale).

On the other hand, the pre-1961 former French word billion, pre-1994 former Italian word bilione, Brazilian Portuguese word bilhão and the Welsh word biliwn all refer to 109, being short scale terms. Each of these words translates to the American English or post-1974 modern British English word billion (109 in the short scale).

The terms billion and milliard both originally meant 1012 when introduced.[12]

  • In long scale countries, milliard was redefined down to its current value of 109, leaving billion at its original 1012 value and so on for the larger numbers.[12] Some of these countries, but not all, introduced new words billiard, trilliard, etc. as intermediate terms.[13][14][15][16][17]
  • In some short scale countries, milliard was redefined down to 109 and billion dropped altogether, with trillion redefined down to 1012 and so on for the larger numbers.[12]
  • In many short scale countries, milliard was dropped altogether and billion was redefined down to 109, adjusting downwards the value of trillion and all the larger numbers.
 Date  Event
1200s The word million was not used in any language before the 13th century. Maximus Planudes (c. 1260–1305) was among the first recorded users.[12]
late 1300s The word million entered the English language. One of the earliest references is William Langland's Piers Plowman (written c. 1360-1387 in Middle English),[12] with:
Coueyte not his goodes
For millions of moneye


Covet not his goods
for millions of money
1475 French mathematician Jehan Adam recorded the words bymillion and trimillion as meaning 1012 and 1018 respectively in a manuscript Traicté en arismetique pour la practique par gectouers, now held in the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris.[18][19][20]
... item noctes que le premier greton dembas vault ung, le second vault ... dix, le trois vault ... [sic] cent, le quart vult mille, le Ve vault dix M, le VIe vault cent M, le VIIe vault Milion, Le VIIIe vault dix Million, Le IXe vault cent Millions, Le Xe vault Mill Millions, Le XIe vault dix mill Millions, Le XIIe vault Cent mil Millions, Le XIIIe vault bymillion, Le XIIIIe vault dix bymillions, Le XVe vault mil [sic] bymillions, Le XVIe vault mil bymillions, Le XVIIe vault dix Mil bymillions, Le XVIIIe vault cent mil bymillions, Le XIXe vault trimillion, Le XXe vault dix trimillions ...


... Item note that the first counter from the bottom is worth one, the 2nd is worth [...ten, the 3rd is worth...] one hundred, the 4th is worth one thousand, the 5th is worth ten thousand, the 6th is worth one hundred thousand, the 7th is worth a million, the 8th is worth ten millions, the 9th is worth one hundred millions, the 10th is worth one thousand millions, the 11th is worth ten thousand millions, the 12th is worth one hundred thousand million, the 13th is worth a bymillion, the 14th is worth ten bymillions, the 15th is worth one [hundred] bymillions, the 16th is worth one thousand bymillions, the 17th is worth ten thousand bymillions, the 18th is worth hundred thousand bymillions, the 19th is worth a trimillion, the 20th is worth ten trimillions ...
1484 French mathematician Nicolas Chuquet, in his article Le Triparty en la Science des Nombres par Maistre Nicolas Chuquet Parisien,[21][22][23] used the words byllion, tryllion, quadrillion, quyllion, sixlion, septyllion, ottyllion, and nonyllion to refer to 1012, 1018, etc. Most of the work was copied without attribution by Estienne de La Roche and published in his 1520 book, L'arismetique.[21] Chuquet's original article was rediscovered in the 1870s and then published for the first time in 1880.
... Item lon doit savoir que ung million vault
mille milliers de unitez, et ung byllion vault mille
milliers de millions, et [ung] tryllion vault mille milliers
de byllions, et ung quadrillion vault mille milliers de
tryllions et ainsi des aultres : Et de ce en est pose ung
exemple nombre divise et punctoye ainsi que devant est
dit, tout lequel nombre monte 745324 tryllions
804300 byllions 700023 millions 654321.
Exemple : 745324'8043000'700023'654321 ...


...Item: one should know that a million is worth
a thousand thousand units, and a byllion is worth a thousand
thousand millions, and tryllion is worth a thousand thousand
byllions, and a quadrillion is worth a thousand thousand
tryllions, and so on for the others. And an example of this follows,
a number divided up and punctuated as previously
described, the whole number being 745324 tryllions,
804300 byllions 700023 millions 654321.
Example: 745324'8043000'700023'654321 ... [sic]

The extract from Chuquet's manuscript, the transcription and translation provided here all contain an original mistake: one too many zeros in the 804300 portion of the fully written out example: 745324'8043000 '700023'654321 ...

1514 French mathematician Budaeus (Guillaume Budé), writing in Latin, used the term milliart to mean "Millions of millions" or 1012 in his book De Asse et partibus eius Libri quinqz.[24]
.. hoc est denas myriadu myriadas, quod vno verbo nostrates abaci studiosi Milliartu appellat, quasi millionu millione


.. this is ten myriad myriads, which in one word our students of numbers call Milliart, as if a million millions
1549 The influential French mathematician Jacques Pelletier du Mans used the name milliard (or milliart), attributing this meaning to the earlier usage by Guillaume Budé[24]
1600s The traditional six-digit groups were split into three-digit groups. In France and Italy, some scientists then began using billion to mean 109, trillion to mean 1012, etc. This usage formed the origins of the later short scale. The majority of scientists either continued to say thousand million or changed the meaning of the Pelletier term, milliard, from "million of millions" down to "thousand million".[12] This meaning of milliard has been occasionally used in England,[3] but was widely adopted in France, Germany, Italy and the rest of Europe, for those keeping the original long scale billion from Adam, Chuquet and Pelletier.
1676 The first published use of milliard as 109 occurred in the Netherlands.[12][25]
.. milliart/ofte duysent millioenen..


..milliart / also thousand millions..
Early 1700s The short-scale meaning of the term billion was brought to the British American colonies
1729 The first American appearance of the short scale value of billion as 109 was published in the Greenwood Book of 1729, written anonymously by Prof. Isaac Greenwood of Harvard College[12]
Early 1800s France widely converted to the short scale, and was followed by the U.S., which began teaching it in schools. Many French encyclopedias of the 19th century either omitted the long scale system or called it "désormais obsolète", a now obsolete system. Nevertheless, by the mid 20th century France had converted back to the long scale.
1000 Mark German banknote, over-stamped in red with "Eine Milliarde Mark" (109 mark)
Using German banknotes as wallpaper following the 1923 hyperinflation

German hyperinflation in the 1920s Weimar Republic caused 'Eintausend Mark' (1000 Mark = 103 Mark) German banknotes to be over-stamped as 'Eine Milliarde Mark' (109 Mark). This introduced large-number names to the German populace.

The Mark or Papiermark was replaced at the end of 1923 by the Rentenmark at an exchange rate of:

1 Rentenmark = 1 billion (long scale) Papiermark = 1012 Papiermark = 1 trillion (short scale) Papiermark

1926 H. W. Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern English Usage[3] noted:
It should be remembered that "billion" does not mean in American use (which follows the French) what it means in British. For to us it means the second power of a million, i.e. a million millions (1,000,000,000,000); for Americans it means a thousand multiplied by itself twice, or a thousand millions (1,000,000,000), what we call a milliard. Since billion in our sense is useless except to astronomers, it is a pity that we do not conform.

Although American English usage did not change, within the next 50 years French usage changed from short scale to long and British English usage changed from long scale to short.

1020 Hungarian pengő banknote issued in 1946
Sweeping up pengő banknotes in the street, following the 1946 introduction of the forint

Hyperinflation in Hungary in 1946 led to the introduction of the 1020 pengő banknote.

100 million b-pengő (long scale) = 100 trillion (long scale) pengő = 1020 pengő = 100 quintillion (short scale) pengő.

On 1 August 1946, the forint was introduced at a rate of:

1 forint = 400 quadrilliard (long scale) pengő = 4 x 1029 pengő = 400 octillion (short scale) pengő.

1948 The 9th General Conference on Weights and Measures received requests to establish an International System of Units. One such request was accompanied by a draft French Government discussion paper, which included a suggestion of universal use of the long scale, inviting the short-scale countries to return or convert.[26] This paper was widely distributed as the basis for further discussion. The matter of the International System of Units was eventually resolved at the 11th General Conference in 1960. The question of long scale versus short scale was not resolved and does not appear in the list of any conference resolutions.[26][27]
1960 The 11th General Conference on Weights and Measures adopted the International System of Units (SI), with its own set of numeric prefixes.[28] SI is therefore independent of the number scale being used. SI also notes the language-dependence of some larger-number names and advises against using ambiguous terms such as billion, trillion, etc.[29]
1961 The French Government confirmed their official usage of the long scale in the Journal officiel (the official French Government gazette).[30]
1974 British prime minister Harold Wilson explained in a written answer to the House of Commons that UK government statistics would from then on use the short scale.[6] Hansard,[5] for the 20 December 1974, reported it:
Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop asked the Prime Minister whether he will make it the practice of his administration that when Ministers employ the word 'billion' in any official speeches, documents, or answers to Parliamentary Questions, they will, to avoid confusion, only do so in its British meaning of 1 million million and not in the sense in which it is used in the United States of America, which uses the term 'billion' to mean 1,000 million.

The Prime Minister: No. The word 'billion' is now used internationally to mean 1,000 million and it would be confusing if British Ministers were to use it in any other sense. I accept that it could still be interpreted in this country as 1 million million and I shall ask my colleagues to ensure that, if they do use it, there should be no ambiguity as to its meaning.

The BBC and other UK mass media quickly followed the government's lead within the UK.

During the last quarter of the 20th century, most other English-speaking countries (the Republic of Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe, etc.) either also followed this lead or independently switched to the short scale use. However, in most of these countries, some limited long scale use persists and the official status of the short scale use is not clear.

1975 French mathematician Geneviève Guitel introduced the terms échelle longue (long scale) and échelle courte (short scale) to refer to the two numbering systems.[1][2]

Hyperinflation in Yugoslavia led to the introduction of 5 x 1011 dinar banknotes.

500 thousand million (long scale) dinars = 5 x 1011 dinar banknotes = 500 billion (short scale) dinars.

The later introduction of the new dinar came at an exchange rate of:

1 novi dinar = 1 × 1027 dinars = ~1.3 × 1027 pre 1990 dinars.

1994 The Italian Government confirmed their official usage of the long scale.[17]

Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe led to banknotes of 1014 Zimbabwean dollars, marked "One Hundred Trillion Dollars" (short scale), being issued in 2009, shortly ahead of the currency being abandoned.[31][32][33] As of 2013, a new currency has yet to be announced – so foreign currencies are being used instead.

100 trillion (short scale) Zimbabwean dollars = 1014 Zimbabwean dollars = 100 billion (long scale) Zimbabwean dollars = 1027 pre-2006 Zimbabwean dollars.

2013 As of 24 October 2013, the combined total public debt of the United States stood at $17.078 trillion.[34][35]

17 trillion (short scale) US Dollars = 1.7 x 1013 US Dollars = 17 billion (long scale) US Dollars

Current usage

Short scale users


106 = one million, 109 = one billion, 1012 = one trillion, etc.

Most English-language countries and regions use the short scale with 109 = billion. For example:[shortscale note 1]

 American Samoa
 Antigua and Barbuda
 Australia [shortscale note 2] [36]
 Belize   (English-speaking)
 Botswana   (English-speaking)
 British Virgin Islands
 Cameroon   (English-speaking)
 Cayman Islands
 Cook Islands
 Falkland Islands
 Ghana   (English-speaking)
 Guyana   (English-speaking)
 Hong Kong   (English-speaking)
 Ireland   (English-speaking, Irish: billiún trilliún)
 Isle of Man
 Kenya   (English-speaking)
 Malawi   (English-speaking)
 Malaysia   (English-speaking; Malay: bilion billion, trilion trillion)
 Malta   (English-speaking; Maltese: biljun, triljun)
 Marshall Islands
 Federated States of Micronesia
 New Zealand   (English-speaking)
 Nigeria   (English-speaking)
 Norfolk Island
 Northern Mariana Islands
 Papua New Guinea   (English-speaking)
 Philippines   (English-speaking) [shortscale note 3]
 Pitcairn Islands
 Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
 Saint Kitts and Nevis
 Saint Lucia
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
 Sierra Leone
 Singapore   (English-speaking)
 Solomon Islands
 South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
 Tanzania   (English-speaking)
 Trinidad and Tobago
 Turks and Caicos Islands
 Uganda   (English-speaking)
 United Kingdom   (see Wales below) [shortscale note 4] [5][6][7][8][9]
 United States [shortscale note 5] [37][38]
 United States Virgin Islands
 Zambia   (English-speaking)
 Zimbabwe   (English-speaking) [31][32][33]


106 = میليون  million, 109 = میليار  milyar, 1012 = تريليون  trilyon, etc.

Most Arabic-language countries and regions use the short scale with 109 = میليار   milyar. For example:[shortscale note 6] [39][40]

Other short scale

106 = one million, 109 = one milliard / billion, 1012 = one trillion, etc.

Other countries also use a word similar to trillion to mean 1012, etc. While a few of these countries like English use a word similar to billion to mean 109, most like Arabic have kept a traditional long scale word similar to milliard for 109. Some examples of short scale use, and the words used for 109 and 1012, are:

 Afghanistan   (Dari: میلیارد milyard or بیلیون billion, تریلیون trillion, Pashto: میلیارد milyard, بیلیون billion, تریلیون trillion)
 Albania   (miliard, trilion) [41]
 Armenia   (միլիարդ miliard, տրիլիոն trilion)
 Azerbaijan   (milyard, trilyon)
 Belarus   (мільярд milyard, трыльён trilyon)
 Brazil   (Brazilian Portuguese: bilhão, trilhão)
 Brunei   (Brunei Malay: ; Malay: bilion billion, trilion trillion)
 Bulgaria   (милиард miliard, трилион trilion)
 Cyprus   (Greek: δισεκατομμύριο disekatommyrio, τρισεκατομμύριο trisekatommyrio, Turkish: milyar, trilyon)
 Estonia   (miljard, triljon) [42][43]
 Georgia   (მილიარდი miliardi, ტრილიონი trilioni)
 Indonesia   (miliar, triliun)  [shortscale note 7] [44]
 Iran   (Persian: میلیارد milyard or بیلیون billion, تریلیون trillion) [45][46][47]
 Israel   (Hebrew: מיליארד millyard, טריליון trillyon)
 Kazakhstan   (Kazakh: миллиард milliard, триллион trillion)
 Kyrgyzstan   (Kyrgyz: миллиард milliard, триллион trillion)
 Latvia   (miljards, triljons)
 Lithuania   (milijardas, trilijonas)
 Moldova   (Romanian / Moldovan: miliard, trilion; Russian: миллиард milliard, триллион trillion)
 Burma   (Burmese: , IPA: [bìljàɴ]; , [tʰəɹìljàɴ]) [48]
 Romania   (miliard, trilion)
 Russia   (миллиард milliard, триллион trillion)
 Tajikistan   (Tajik: миллиард milliard, триллион trillion)
 Turkey   (milyar, trilyon)
 Turkmenistan   (Turkmen: ; Russian: миллиард milliard, триллион trillion)
 Ukraine   (мільярд mil'yard, трильйон tryl'yon)
 Uzbekistan   (Uzbek: ; Russian: миллиард milliard, триллион trillion)
 Wales   (biliwn, triliwn)

With other terminology

 Greece (εκατομμύριο ekatommyrio "hundred-myriad" = 106; δισεκατομμύριο disekatommyrio "bi+hundred-myriad" = 109; τρισεκατομμύριο trisekatommyrio "tri+hundred-myriad" = 1012; τετράκις εκατομμύριο tetrakis ekatommyrio "quadri+hundred-myriad" = 1015, and so on.)[49]

Long scale users

The traditional long scale is used by most Continental European countries and by most other countries whose languages derive from Continental Europe (with the notable exceptions of Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Brazil). These countries use a word similar to billion to mean 1012. Some use a word similar to milliard to mean 109, while others use a word or phrase equivalent to thousand millions.


106 = millón, 109 = mil millones or millardo, 1012 = billón, etc.

Most Spanish-language countries and regions use the long scale with 109 = mil millones, for example:[longscale note 1] [50][51]

 Costa Rica  
 Dominican Republic  
 El Salvador  
 Equatorial Guinea  
 Guatemala   (millardo)
 Honduras   (millardo)
 Mexico   (mil millones or millardo)
 Nicaragua   (mil millones or millardo)
 Panama   (mil millones or millardo)
 Spain   (millardo or typ. mil millones)


106 = million, 109 = milliard, 1012 = billion, etc.

Most French-language countries and regions use the long scale, for example:[longscale note 2] [52][53]


106 = milhão, 109 = mil milhões or milhar de milhões, 1012 = bilião

With the notable exception of Brazil, a short scale country, most Portuguese-language countries and regions use the long scale, for example:


106 = miljoen, 109 = miljard, 1012 =biljoen

Most Dutch-language countries and regions use the long scale, for example:[54][55]

Other long scale

106 = one million, 109 = one milliard / thousand million, 1012 = one billion, 1015 = one billiard / thousand billion, 1018 = one trillion, etc.

Some examples of long scale use, and the words used for 109 and 1012, are:

 Andorra   (Catalan: miliard or typ. mil milions, bilió)
 Austria   (Austrian German: Milliarde, Billion)
 Belgium   (Belgian French: milliard, billion; Flemish: miljard, biljoen; German: Milliarde, Billion)
 Bosnia and Herzegovina   (Bosnian: milijarda, bilion; Croatian: milijarda, bilijun, Serbian: милијарда milijarda, Билион bilion)
 Croatia   (milijarda, bilijun)
 Czech Republic   (miliarda, bilion)
 Denmark   (milliard, billion)
 Faroe Islands   (Danish: milliard, billion)
 Finland   (Finnish: miljardi, biljoona; Swedish: miljard, biljon)
 Germany   (Milliarde, Billion) [13][14]
 Hungary   (milliárd, billió or ezer milliárd)
 Iceland   (milljarður, billjón)
 Italy   (miliardo, bilione) [longscale note 3] [17][56]
 Liechtenstein   (German: Milliarde, Billion)
 Luxembourg   (French: milliard, billion; German: Milliarde, Billion; Luxembourgish: milliard, billioun)
 Macedonia   (милијарда milijarda, Билион bilion)
 Madagascar   (French: milliard, billion; Malagasy: )
 Montenegro   (Montenegrin: )
 Norway   (Bokmål: milliard, billion; Nynorsk: milliard, billion)
 Poland   (miliard, bilion)
 San Marino   (Italian: miliardo, bilione)
 Serbia   (милијарда milijarda, Билион bilion)
 Slovakia   (miliarda, bilión)
 Slovenia   (milijarda, bilijon)
 Sweden   (miljard, biljon)
  Switzerland   (French: milliard, billion; German: Milliarde, Billion; Italian: miliardo, bilione, Romansh: milliarda, billiun [57])
  Vatican City   (Italian: miliardo, bilione)
Other long scale languages

Using both

Some countries use either the short or long scales, depending on the internal language being used or the context.

106 = one million, 109 = EITHER one billion (short scale) OR one milliard / thousand million (long scale), 1012 = EITHER one trillion (short scale) OR one billion (long scale), etc.
 Country or Territory   Short scale usage   Long scale usage 
 Canada [shortscale longscale note 1] Canadian English   (109 = billion, 1012 = trillion) Canadian French   (109 = milliard, 1012 = billion).
English   (109 = billion, 1012 = trillion) French   (109 = milliard, 1012 = billion)
 South Africa [shortscale longscale note 2]
South African English   (109 = billion, 1012 = trillion) Afrikaans   (109 = miljard, 1012 = biljoen)
 Puerto Rico economic & technical (109 = billón, 1012 = trillón) Latin American export publications (109 = millardo or mil millones, 1012 = billón)

Using neither

The following countries have their own numbering systems and use neither short nor long scales:

 Country   Main article   Notes 
 Bangladesh,    India,      Nepal,    Pakistan South Asian numbering system  For everyday use, but short or long scale may also be in use [other scale note 1]
 Bhutan Dzongkha numerals Traditional system
 Cambodia Khmer numerals Traditional system
 China (People's Republic of China – PRC),    Taiwan (Republic of China – ROC) Chinese numerals Traditional myriad system for the larger numbers; special words and symbols up to 1088
 Greenland Inuit numerals Traditional system
 Japan Japanese numerals Traditional myriad system for the larger numbers; special words and symbols up to 1088
 North Korea,    South Korea Korean numerals Traditional myriad system for the larger numbers; special words and symbols up to 1088
 Laos Lao numerals Traditional system
 Maldives,    Sri Lanka Sinhala numerals
Tamil numerals
Traditional systems
 Mongolia Mongolian numerals Traditional myriad system for the larger numbers; special words up to 1067
 Thailand Thai numerals Traditional system based on millions
 Vietnam Vietnamese numerals Traditional system(s) based on thousands
Presence on most continents

The long and short scales are both present on most continents, with usage dependent on the language used. Examples include:

Continent Short scale usage Long scale usage
Africa Arabic (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia), English (South Sudan), South African English Afrikaans, French (Benin, Central African Republic, Gabon, Guinea), Portuguese (Mozambique)
North America American English, Canadian English U.S. Spanish, Canadian French, Mexican Spanish
South America Brazilian Portuguese, English (Guyana) American Spanish, Dutch (Suriname), French (French Guiana)
Antarctica Australian English, British English, New Zealand English American Spanish (Argentina, Chile), French (France), Norwegian (Norway)
Asia Burmese (Myanmar), Hebrew (Israel), Indonesian, Malaysian English, Persian (Iran), Philippine English, Portuguese (Macau)
Europe British English, Hiberno-English, Scottish English, Welsh English, Welsh, Bulgarian, Estonian, Greek, Latvian, Lithuanian, Turkish, Ukrainian Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish and most other languages of continental Europe
Oceania Australian English, New Zealand English French (French Polynesia)
Alternative approaches

Unambiguous ways of identifying large numbers include:

  • In written communications, the simplest solution for moderately large numbers is to write the full amount, for example 1,000,000,000,000 rather than, say, 1 trillion (short scale) or 1 billion (long scale).
  • Combinations of the unambiguous word million, for example: 109 = "one thousand million"; 1012 = "one million million". This becomes rather unwieldy for numbers above 1012.
  • Combination of numbers of more than 3 digits with the unambiguous word million, for example 13,600 million[61]
  • Scientific notation (also known as standard form or exponential notation, for example 1×109, 1×1010, 1×1011, 1×1012, etc.), or its engineering notation variant (for example 1×109, 10×109, 100×109, 1×1012, etc.), or the computing variant E notation (for example 1e9, 1e10, 1e11, 1e12, etc.) This is the most common practice among scientists and mathematicians, and is both unambiguous and convenient.
  • SI prefixes in combination with SI units, for example, giga for 109 and tera for 1012 can give Gigawatt (=109 W) and Terawatt (=1012 W), respectively. The International System of Units (SI) is independent of whichever scale is being used.[28] Use with non-SI units (e.g. "giga-dollars", "giga-miles") is uncommon.

Notes on current usage

Short scale
Long scale
Both long and short scale
Neither long nor short scale

See also


External links

  • BBC News article: "Is trillion the new billion?"

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