Subject: English-French translations for big numbers


I am trying to find the common names (in English and French) for the big numbers as follows:

  English French
106 million million
109 billion milliard?
1012 trillion billion?
1015 ?? trillion?

Thank you very much


Hi Mireille,

In the Quandaries and Queries section of Math Central there is a note called Billions and more that is a reply to a similar question about the English names for large numbers. I asked Claude for the French names and this is his reply.

There seems to be a logic behind it:

109: milliard n. m. Nombre qui vaut mille millions. -- Absol. Un milliard: mille millions de francs. -- Par ext. Nombre indéterminé et très considérable. 1012: billion n. m. Un million de millions, soit mille milliards. 1018: trillion n. m. Un million à la puissance 3, soit un milliard de milliards.

This is from the on line dictionnary "dictionnaire francophone en ligne" It is not absolute, we find the french-english translation trillion = billion *[noun-masculine] in the dictionnary So this means "un billion" does not exist, and "un trillion" would be 109! (it is probably a typo)

According to Le Robert 1996, trillion had a meaning of 1012 and now means 1018. And I remember that when the american debt reached 1012 dollars, this was reported as "Un trillion de dollars". It is probably best to translate the french "Un trillion" by the english "a zillion".

Claude and Harley
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