Entries linking to septillion
"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.
1680s, from French billion (originally byllion in Chuquet's unpublished "Le Triparty en la Science des Nombres," 1484; copied by De la Roche, 1520); see bi- "two" + million. A million million in Britain and Germany (numeration by groups of sixes), which was the original sense; subsequently altered in French 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" [David E. Smith, "History of Mathematics," 1925]. France reverted to the original meaning in 1948. British usage is truer to the etymology, but U.S. sense is said to be increasingly common there in technical writing.
In Italian arithmetics from the last quarter of the fifteenth century the words bilione or duilione, trilione, quadrilione or quattrilione, quintilione, cinquilione, or quinquilione, sestione or sestilione, settilione, ottilione, noeilione and decilione occur as common abbreviations of due volte millioni, tre volte millione, etc. In other countries these words came into use much later, although one French writer, Nicolas Chuquet, mentions them as early as 1484, in a book not printed until 1881. The Italians had, besides, another system of numeration, proceeding by powers of a thousand. The French, who like other northern peoples, took most if not all their knowledge of modern or Arabic arithmetic from the Italians, early confounded the two systems of Italian numeration, counting in powers of a thousand, but adopting the names which properly belong to powers of a million. [Century Dictionary]
updated on May 14, 2022