Graeme −> Language −> Numbers −> Millions, Billions, and Zillions

Millions and Billions and Zillions -- how high can you count?

That depends on whether you know the words for very big numbers, and also two important factors: how fast can you count, and how much time to you have to spend on this crusade.

Do you know the words for very big numbers?  The words you use for big numbers depend on whether you live in the United States or in the United Kingdom (although someone emailed me to say the Brits have thrown in the towel, and adopted the Yankee method.  If that's true, then read: old UK).  Here is a table that might help you:

Power of 10 Number American Name British Name
(not used much any more)
3 1, 000 Thousand Thousand
6 1, 000, 000 Million Million
9 1, 000, 000, 000 Billion Thousand Million, or "Milliard"
12 1, 000, 000, 000, 000 Trillion Billion
15 1, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 Quadrillion Thousand Billion
18 1, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 Quintillion Trillion
21 1, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 Sextillion Thousand Trillion
24 1, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 Septillion Quadrillion
27 1, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 Octillion Thousand Quadrillion
30 1, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 Nonillion Sexillion

The British Names comprise a better system of naming large numbers, because it doesn't use up the Latin names (tri-, quad-, etc.) so fast.  On the other hand, the American system is better for medium sized numbers like 1,335,168,736,797,130,752.  In America, this number is

one quintillion,
one hundred sixty-eight trillion,
seven hundred thirty-six billion,
seven hundred ninety-seven million,
one hundred thirty thousand,
seven hundred fifty-two.

Using the old UK system, 1,335,168,736,797,130,752 is

one trillion,
three hundred thirty-five thousand billion,
one hundred sixty-eight billion,
seven hundred thirty-six thousand million,
seven hundred ninety-seven million,
one hundred thirty thousand,
seven hundred fifty-two.

For medium-sized numbers like this that have many significant digits, the old British system is downright confusing because thousands and millions can modify trillions resulting in gazillions!

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### Internet References

"Large Numbers", from Mathworld