Billion vs. milliard

Hi, could you please tell if the word milliard is still used and if so by whom? Also, why is that we have to different words describing the same number (billion and milliard)?

Thanks in advance,

TOEIC short conversations: Two co-workers meet after one of them has been away on a training program.[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Torsten

I’d never heard the word milliard before coming to Europe. Milliard isn’t used in the US. The word billion is used to mean a thousand million in the USA.

I found this in the online etymology dictionary:

1690, from Fr. billion (originally byllion in Chuquet’s unpublished “Le Triparty en la Science des Nombres”, 1484; copied by De la Roche, 1520), from bi- “two” + (m)illion. A million million in Britain and Germany (numeration by groups of sixes), which was the original sense; subsequently altered in Fr. to “a thousand million” (numeration by groups of threes) and picked up in that form in U.S., “due in part to French influence after the Revolutionary War.” France then reverted to the original meaning in 1948. British usage is truer to the etymology, but U.S. sense is increasingly common there in technical writing. Billionaire first recorded 1861 in Amer.Eng. The first in the world was likely John D. Rockefeller.


In my native language milliard is conventionally used in any factual context and/or technical writing, whereas billion has slightly journalistic (or poetic :slight_smile: ) sense.
I would say, that for me billions sounds as emotional word for thousand milliards :slight_smile:

Also, in Russian, multi-millionaire is literally a milliarder.

P.S. What about trillion? Am I right and in American (spoken) English it means 1012, as well (not 1018, as it :slight_smile: )


Hi Tamara

If someone were to tell me that I’d hit the jackpot and become a billionaire, I definitely think I’d be quite emotional about that fact. :smiley:

What I find interesting about the usage of billion in the USA is that the French had a hand in that development.
:shock: :lol:

In the USA, a trillion is a “one followed by 12 zeroes”.


(Sorry, I’ve lost rankes and corrected).

Once again:
(technical, scientific) milliard = 1 000 000 000 (10**9)

In spoken language(s) it is also used as an equivalent for ‘billion’, which also can mean in some contexts 1012 (and in some contexts can be used as an equivalent for trillion = ? (…which, in turn, sometimes = 1018 ) :slight_smile:

Wikipedia says:
‘The word “billion” and its equivalents in other languages refer to either one million million or one thousand million, depending on whether the writer is using the long scale or the short scale.’

‘…however, British media, including the BBC, which long used “thousand million” for this reason, now use “billion” to mean 109 and “trillion” to mean 1012.’

‘The word trillion describes one of two numerical values, depending on where and how it is used. It is the largest numerical value in everyday non-scientific use in the English language. It comes between a billion and a quadrillion.’

So, to summarize:

If you use the word million, everybody will understand the same thing. (Hooray! :D)

If you use the word milliard in the USA, basically [color=red]nobody will have any idea whatsoever what you’re talking about. The word isn’t used in American English. But the British would understand milliard to mean a number with 3 more zeroes than million.

If you use the word billion, Americans will only understand that as a number with 3 more zeroes than million, whereas the British might understand that as either a number with 3 more OR with 6 more zeroes than million. :lol:

And I guess that’s the reason for Torsten’s question.