# When did a Trillion shrink?

Asked by majorrich (14624) March 2nd, 2013

When I was a kid, a million was a thousand thousand’s, and a million was million millions. A trillion was a billion billions. But here, I find it’s only a thousand billions. Did a trillion go swimming in cold water? There seems to be a problem with the math, or am I remembering wrong?

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You’re remembering wrong. To move up the -illions scale, you’ve always multiplied by 1,000. That’s what moves the comma over 3 places.

thorninmud (20457)

Just doesn’t look like enough zero’s. Shouldn’t each -illion have twice the zero’s?

majorrich (14624)

In the US we increase by one thousand. In the UK it increased by a million, so instead of a US billion, you had a thousand million in the UK (also known as a milliard). When the US went to trillion (10^12), the UK called it a billion.

But it was never the square (^2) of the previous level, which is what doubling the zeroes would lead to once you get above 10^9.

zenvelo (30797)

There are two ways of naming large numbers which have been named long-scale and short scale (by some French chap). On short scale each new term moves up by 1,000 and on long scale each new term moves up by a million. For a long time the UK used long-scale so our billion was a million million and a trillion was a million billion etc. The UK switched to short-scale back in 1974 so a billion became a thousand million, and a trillion became a thousand million probably to bring us into line with the US.

Lightlyseared (30303)

Ugh! just as I was feeling a little more comfortable with big numbers! It’s been a while since I though about billions and trillions til watching the news. Then I find I confuse myself with the number of billions in a trillion. Now I find there were two kinds of trillion! lol. Still. it’s a bunch of money they are talking about.

majorrich (14624)

billion
trillion
quintillion
sextillian
septillian
etc. ... each time the comma moves, as @thorninmud has indicated.

CWOTUS (25216)

Squishy squillions & our currency is lurve…baby.

ucme (45228)

If that’s how you remember a billion then your car has a boot instead of a trunk, and you stand in queues instead of lines.

jerv (31027)

and a bonnet instead of a hood

majorrich (14624)

Wait a minute…. so you guys are saying in the UK they count differently than in the US? I had no clue about this at all…

Apparently it used to be if you were a trillionaire in GB you were 1000 times more wealthy than in the US. Shhhh. don’t tell Bill Gates!

majorrich (14624)

@uberbatman we used to count differently. However a lot of French, Portuguese and Spanish speaking countries still use the long scale. Most of the countries in South America (with the exception of Brazil) use the long scale.

Lightlyseared (30303)

I never knew that either! Learn something new every day…

augustlan (47376)

Millions and billions and trillions of cats!

janbb (51064)

@Lightlyseared how very interesting, cool thanks for the extra info…

You may also be remembering when the UK pound was worth a bit more too. I remember, back in the day, it was three or four USD to the Pound, so, that made a bit of difference when calculating the wealth as well.

cazzie (24503)

@cazzie that was predecimilisation wasn’t it? It was much easier with the old system.
Two farthings = One Ha’penny. Two ha’pennies = One Penny. Three pennies = A Thrupenny Bit. Two Thrupences = A Sixpence. Two Sixpences = One Shilling, or Bob. Two Bob = A Florin. One Florin and one Sixpence = Half a Crown. Four Half Crowns = Ten Bob Note. Two Ten Bob Notes = One Pound (or 240 pennies). One Pound and One Shilling = One Guinea

Lightlyseared (30303)