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Don’t get your millions and billions tangled up!

One hundred trillion dollarsA Dutch miljard (1,000,000,000 or 109) is a billion in US English. A Dutch biljoen (1,000,000,000,000 or 1012) is a trillion, while a Dutch biljard is a quadrillion. These terms are also used these days in British government publications and most British newspapers. Formerly, in UK English billion was used for 1012, just like Dutch biljoen, and a Dutch miljard was a thousand million. Summing up:

Dutch               American/Modern British Old-fashioned British      
miljard billion thousand million
biljoen trillion billion
biljard quadrillion thousand billion

Note that the term milliard for Dutch miljard officially exists in UK English, but is virtually never used.

If you need to abbreviate either million or billion, note that the most widely used abbreviations are m for million and bn for billion: e.g., 24m, 35 bn. For some unknown reason, m follows the number without a space, while bn is normally preceded by a space. The abbreviation mio, sometimes seen in European languages, does not exist in English.

© 2014 Baxter Publishing, Hilversum, The Netherlands

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