A Centillion or Quattuordecillion?

with 2 Comments

A while back I needed a replacement word for a “million”, meaning a large number!

Many people do not know that the dictionary defines a million not only as 10 to the sixth power, but also as…

a very large number <millions of cars on the road>

When I was a boy, a million of anything was too many to count!

Million comes from the Latin Mille meaning 1,000!  So why does million come from a word meaning thousand, well, it is because a million is a thousand, thousands.  In other words, they count the thousands (or three zeros) past 1,000. Billion and Trillion are likewise.  Bi = 2 and Tri=3 Two sets of “000” or three sets of “000”. 1,000,000,000 or 1,000,000,000,000!  Past 1,000! Big numbers indeed!

I stopped using a “million” as a very large number when I had a job in which I had to count $5 million.  Because I could actually count more than a million dollars it did not seem like an uncountable amount anymore!  However, I will freely admit I was not counting $5 million worth of one dollar bills!


I soon found my replacement, a Centillion. How much is a Centillion?  Well, it is a hundred groups of zeros beyond 1,000.  That would be a 1 followed by 303 zeros!  Indeed a big number!


Obviously more than I will ever count.  Cent as in Century means 100 groups of “000” past the 1,000.  303 zeros!

This is short and sweet and easy to say… but maybe there is a more sexy very large number…


Quattuordecillion just sounds sexy!  Try saying it!

It is actually much smaller than a Centillion.  Where a Centillion has 303 zeros a Quattuordecillion only has a small 45!


The -illion part is modeled on million; the quattuordec comes from the Latin word for fourteen. Why 14? Because there are 14 groups of three zeros after the number 1,000 in quattuordecillion.  Just like there is 100 (Cent) groups of three zeros in a Centillion or two (Bi) groups of three zeros in a Billion or Three (Tri) groups of three zeros in a Trillion!


A Zillion is an indeterminately large number <zillions of mosquitoes> or I have a zillion chores to finish before we can leave.

A zillion is actually not a number at all!  In fact it has only been used since 1934!


A jillion is an adjective that came into use in only in 1942 and it has the same meaning as Zillion – it may be because people could not spell Zillion!  Ha Ha Joke only.

But here is something that is no joke at all…


A pillion is also not a number!  It is a pad or cushion put on behind a man’s saddle chiefly for a woman to ride on.  Notice it looks a lot like the word Pillow? A saddle is securely attached to the horse, but a Pillion is just to cushion a lady riding behind her man!

The back padded seat, that was added to motorcycles, is also called a pillion in British English.  So the next time you are sitting on something hard, tell them you would give a Jillion-Zillion bucks for a Pillion!  If no one grabs a dictionary before they give you a pillow, you should be a Quattuordecillion times grateful!  Now isn’t that a Centillion times more sexy word?


2 Responses

  1. JTR
    | Reply

    Are there symbols for such large numbers. I want to express a centillion to the centillionth power, that is, a centillion multiplied by itself a centillian times.

    • Lan Tait
      | Reply

      Hey JTR, There are symbols for any number. The symbols are our numbers 0-9. Powers and compound powers make these symbols easier to read and understand. Names can be formed by using predefined words and powers, just as you did, “a centillion to the centillionth power”, more likely called a centillionplex or a centicentillion, if I hade to guess!

      Google got its name by misspelling the word googol (ten to the power of 100), while they were thinking about a googolplex (ten to the power of a googol).

      From a Wiki for googolplex

      In 1938, Edward Kasner’s nine-year-old nephew, Milton Sirotta, coined the term googol, which is 10^(100) (that is 10 to the power of 100), then proposed the further term googolplex to be “one, followed by writing zeroes until you get tired”. Kasner decided to adopt a more formal definition “because different people get tired at different times and it would never do to have Carnera be a better mathematician than Dr. Einstein, simply because he had more endurance and could write for longer”. It thus became standardized to 10^(10^(100)). It is estimated there is no need for numbers larger than a googolplex, as a googolplex would be much larger than anything we need to count.

      As an aside, the corporate headquaters of Google, Inc. is called the Googleplex!

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