word-forming element meaning "thousand; thousandth part (of a metric unit)," from combining form of Latin mille "thousand" (see million).
Entries linking to milli-
"ten hundred thousand, a thousand thousands," late 14c., milioun, from Old French million (late 13c.), from Italian millione (now milione), literally "a great thousand," augmentative of mille "thousand," from Latin mille, which is of uncertain origin. From the start often used indefinitely for "a very great number or quantity."
In the West it was used mainly by mathematicians until 16c., but India, with its love of large numbers, had names before 3c. for numbers well beyond a billion. The ancient Greeks had no name for a number greater than ten thousand, the Romans for none higher than a hundred thousand. "A million" in Latin would have been decies centena milia, literally "ten hundred thousand." Million to one as a type of "long odds" is attested from 1761. Related: Millions.
word-forming element meaning "one thousand," introduced in French 1795, when the metric system was officially adopted there; irregularly reduced from Greek khilioi "thousand," from PIE *gheslo- "thousand," source also of Sanskrit sahasra-, Avestan hazanjra "thousand." "It is usually assumed that Lat. mille should be connected too" [Beekes]; see milli-. "In the metric system, kilo- means multiplied, & milli- divided, by 1000" [Fowler].
updated on January 19, 2019