"Zillion" redirects here. For other uses, see Zillion (disambiguation).
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. One technical term for such words is "non-numerical vague quantifier".
1 General placeholder names,
4 Sagan's number,
5 See also,
General placeholder names:
English has many words whose definition includes an indefinite quantity, such as "lots", "many", "several", and "some". A number of other words and phrases are used to convey the idea in informal or humorous ways, such as slang terms like "metric shitload",; "fuckton"; "gobs of" (e.g. "gobs of jobs" career fair); "n-something" used especially to indicate someone's age within a decade e.g. "twentysomething" and similar terms used most often to indicate someone's age within a decade; and phrases like "to the n-degree".
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.
The Oxford English Dictionary reports its use in 1918, and offers the alternative spelling umteen. It agrees that the derivation is from umpty, whose etymology is given as "A fanciful verbal repr. of the dash (--) in Morse code."
Words with the suffix "-illion", most commonly zillion,gazillion,bajillion, and jillion and 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.
The "-illion" concept is so well established that it is the basis of a joke, in which a speaker misunderstands the word Brazilian (being from the nation of Brazil) as an enormous number called "brazillion".
Many similar words are used, such as bazillion,dillion,fantillion,gadzillion,gagillion,gajillion,godzillion,grillion,hojillion,kabillion,kajillion,katrillion,killion,robillion,skillion,squillion, and umptillion. Also, the suffix can be replaced with "-illionaire" to describe wealthy people.
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."
Sagan's number is the number of stars in the observable universe. It is named in honor of Carl Sagan. This number is reasonably well defined, since we know what stars are and what the observable universe is, but its value is not known with any certainty. It is presently estimated to be approximately 70 sextillion in short scale (70·10).
Sagan's number is unrelated to the bogus sagan unit or the humorous use of the term "sagan" to denote any large quantity - specifically, any number in the billions, due to Sagan's association with the phrase "billions and billions".