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Indefinite and fictitious numbers: Map

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The English language has a number of words for indefinite and fictitious numbers — inexact terms of indefinite size, used for comic effect, for exaggeration, as placeholder names, or when precision is unnecessary or undesirable.

General placeholder names

  • a few (typically held to mean three, though not exclusively)
  • a couple (although this generally has the specific value two, it is also used less precisely)
  • couple-few, coupla-few or couple three
  • some-odd
  • bunch, as in "a whole bunch of...". Generally confined to American English use .
  • several
  • many
  • n-something. Used especially to indicate someone's age within a decade, e.g., twentysomething.
  • eleventy-; e.g., "eleventy-four". Occasionally used to mean 110.
  • lots
  • plenty
  • scads
  • heaps
  • mess (Usually confined to use with food nouns as in "a mess of fish")
  • buckets
  • a grip (Generally confined to urban American English use)
  • loads (also truckloads, busloads, etc.)
  • oodles
  • tons (occasionally refers to multiples of 2000)
  • expletive-load or expletive-ton, e.g. "shit-load". Sometimes prefixed with "metric" or "imperial".
  • mumblety, especially done, often tongue-in-cheek, to conceal an exact value, as in "I shall be mumblety-two this year"


Umpteen

Umpteen is a term for an unspecified but reasonably large number, used in a humorous fashion or to imply that it is not worth the effort to pin down the actual figure. Despite the -teen ending, which would seem to indicate that it lies between 12 and 20, umpteen can be used in ways implying it is much larger than that—if it ever could be pinned down.

According to one dictionary, the word is derived from the slang ump(ty), a dash in Morse code (of imitative origin), plus -teen.

-illion

Words ending in the sound "-illion", such as zillion, jillion, and gazillion, are often used as fictitious names for an unspecified, large number by analogy to names of large numbers such as million, billion and trillion. Their size is dependent upon the context, but can typically be considered large enough to be unfathomable.

These terms are often used as hyperbole or for comic effect, or in loose, unconfined conversation to present an un-guessably large number. Since these are undefined, they have no mathematical validity and no accepted order, since none is necessarily larger or smaller than any of the others.

Many similar words are used, such asananillion,bajillion,bazillion,dillion,gadzillion,gagillion,gajillion,godzillion,gonillion,grillion,hojillion,julillion,kabillion,kajillion,katrillion,killion,robillion,skillion,squillion,andumptillion.Fantillion.

The "-illion" concept is so well established that it is the basis of a joke, in which a speaker misunderstands the word Brazilianmarker (being from the nation of Brazil) as an enormous number "brazillion".

These words can be transformed into ordinal numbers or fractions by the usual pattern of appending the suffix -th, e.g., "I asked her for the zillionth time."

At-least numbers

These terms refer to any of a set of numbers, where only the smallest is defined. The list is ordered numerically by this minimum:

See also



References

  1. American Heritage Dictionary, 4th edn.
  2. ISBN 0-06-102061-3. p. 146: "And you owe me a million billion trillion zillion squillion dollars."
  3. p. 1103, The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, vol. 2, edited by Eric Partridge, Tom Dalzell, and Terry Victor, Taylor & Francis, 2006, ISBN 041525938X.
  4. Included in the standard dictionary included with Microsoft Word word-processing software.
  5. ISBN 0-368-55763-0. p. 148: "I hate swimming an ananillion times more than I hate bananas."
  6. ISBN 0-380-80891-9. p. 86: "Well, yes, it was, and the rumor that there were seventy bajillion women to every man just wouldn't die..."
  7. ISBN 0-312-97870-7. p. 278: "I wouldn't sleep with him in a bazillion years, but I'm not scared of him."
  8. ISBN 1-58008-531-8. p. 3: "...and then the editor asked a gadzillion questions..."
  9. ISBN 0-312-95984-2. p. 114: "The brochures basically told the same story Stan had given me: Pacific Properties owned a gagillion places that generated a gagillion dollars."
  10. p. 98: "The expectation was that the Soviets would roll a gajillion of their ever-improving but still basic tanks across the landscape..."
  11. ISBN 0-312-42051-X. p. 395: "She believes there's a zillion gallons of oil and a godzillion cubic meters of natural gas inside the earth, beginning at a depth of about four miles, and no anvil-headed senior research chemist with a crew cut and stinky breath is going to tell her it isn't so."
  12. ISBN 0-380-80632-0. p. 302: "The curtains had a gonillion dust particles on them, like grandmother's dentures."
  13. ISBN 0-7864-0975-4. p. 8: "After that, even expansion and grillion-dollar salaries could not harm it."
  14. ISBN 0-678-73773-2. p. 67 "Make a wish, on any one of the julillion stars."
  15. ISBN 0-395-97178-0. p. 115: "That's about all I remember, except for this salad and the ninety kabillion manicotti someone else brought."
  16. ISBN 1-59337-555-7. p. 122: "You are not going to sell a kajillion of anything just because it's the coolest little gizmo you ever saw or because your Uncle Ernie said you would."
  17. ISBN 0-689-83954-5 p.2 "He [Uncle Harold] has been writing for a katrillion years and his books have sold a katrillion copies, even if he has gotten some stinko reviews."
  18. ISBN 0-233-83992-X. p. 19 "It was the robillionth time they had done it, but it was as fun as ever before."
  19. ISBN 0-446-60848-3. p. 429: "Sure enough, I found a skillion articles from about a dozen years ago, accounts of the events and aftermath of Cherry Plain."
  20. ISBN 0-8125-7543-1. p. 121: "Your best place, geographically, to bridge across the river is surrounded by Hell's Bells Bog, so deep it would take fifteen umptillion tons of special fill to stabilize it, putting you over your budget."
  21. ISBN 0-5655-7543-1. p. 791: "The taste danced across his tongue with the force of Fantillion concentrated sunbeams."
  22. ISCID Encyclopedia of Science and Philosophy – Hyperfinite Number



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