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What’s the Difference Between a European Billion and an American Billion?

We know that mathematical terms can vary across the world and that there are different units of measurement, decimal separators and division methods.

In today’s post we’re going to talk about a subject that invokes some confusion: a billion in an Anglophone country such as the United States is not the same as a billion in a Hispanophone country like Spain, because its numerical equivalence is different. But… how did this happen?

Long numeric scale

The long numeric scale, also known as the European numeric scale, is used principally in continental European countries and countries where the official language is Spanish or Portuguese (with the exception of Brazil).

Let’s take a look at what each group of digits is called according to this scale:

1= one

1 000= thousand

1 000 000= million

1 000 000 000= thousand million

1 000 000 000 000= european billion (equivalent to a million million)

1 000 000 000 000 000= thousand billion

1 000 000 000 000 000 000= trillion

Short numeric scale

The short numeric scale is used in Brazil and the majority of countries where the official language is English.

According to this scale, each group of digits are called the following:

1= one

1 000= thousand

1 000 000= million

1 000 000 000= american billion (equivalent to a thousand million)

1 000 000 000 000= trillion

1 000 000 000 000 000= quadrillion

1 000 000 000 000 000 000= quintillion

In summary, it’s important to remember that a billion in English is equivalent to one thousand million (a 1 followed by 9 zeros: 1 000 000 000) while in Spanish it’s a million million (a 1 followed by 12 zeros: 1 000 000 000 000).


I hope you’ve found this topic helpful. Remember, whenever you have any questions related to numbers and mathematics, don’t forget to check our blog and log in to Smartick to enjoy our learning method.

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  • Carl GriffinAug 12 2021, 3:51 PM

    A billion in the UK is still a million million, like the rest of Europe.

  • Edward James SouthApr 13 2020, 9:31 AM

    People can leave comments, and the site states people can see comments; but I can’t see the comments?

    While the article does define the mathematical difference, I feel a financial clarification would have been a great addition to the content.

    • SmartickApr 13 2020, 10:03 AM

      Hi Edward,

      Thanks for your comment.

      We also state that “the comments that you write here are moderated,” meaning that they are not instantly published and are not always published. We publish comments only when we consider that the comment or answer would be helpful to other users.

      Regarding your request on a financial clarification for American and European billion, the Smartick blog math content is geared toward children and we do not believe that this approach is necessary for them. In any case, the understanding of the differences can be taken into account.