Main page content

billion, B (billion)

In North American usage, the word billion means a thousand million (109); but in British usage, it means a million million (1012). The use of figures avoids all ambiguity.

  • Genna won $2,000,000 with Lotto 649 and not $2,000,000,000 as reported in the local press.

Where billion is qualified or preceded immediately by a number, do not use the plural form billions.

  • The new bridge cost over $4 billion to build.
  • There are now more than six billion people living on our planet.

BUT

  • There are billions and billions of stars in the sky.
  • Hundreds of billions of dollars were spent in preparation for the millennium bug.

Also, the abbreviation B for billion—found in newspapers especially—should not be used in formal writing. Note that there is no space between the number and the letter (e.g. 5B), whereas there is a space between the number and the word.

  • Informal: Federal aid was reduced by $2.3B in the budget.
  • Formal: Federal aid was reduced by $2.3 billion in the budget.

Search by related themes

Want to learn more about a theme discussed on this page? Click on a link below to see all the pages on the Language Portal of Canada that relate to the theme you selected. The search results will be displayed in Language Navigator.

Date modified: