A billiard is also a word for a thousand billion. As far as I am aware the word was invented in South Africa, as I've never encountered it other than in their official publications. It was created by analogy with milliard = 1000 million = 109, therefore billiard = 1000 billion = 1015.

Whether it ever gained any currency in South Africa, or made any impact anywhere, I have no idea. I liked the idea myself, except of course that (i) it sounds like a snooker or pool ball, an image that simply will not go away; and (ii) it suffers from the same confusion with milliard that billion does with million, viz they sound so close to identical as not to make any difference.

Imagine Carl Sagan with a South African accent... no, it doesn't work, does it?

I also don't know whether South Africa these days uses US billions, which would render the word even more unhelpful.

Update. Thanks to ThePope for pointing out this is not an invention: the word biljard is used in this sense in Dutch. (And the game is biljart.)

Bil"liard (?), a.

Of or pertaining to the game of billiards.

"Smooth as is a billiard ball."

B. Jonson.


© Webster 1913.

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