On the long numerical scale, a trillion equals ten to twelve, a million million. Its representation in the international system of units is a tera (T) .


Therefore, this number represents a one followed by twelve zeros. This in the Spanish system and most of Western Europe. However, in Anglo-Saxon it refers to one billion, that is, one and nine zeros. In this case, "billion" is written in English. Therefore, the number referred to in this article would correspond to the "trillion".

Long and short numbering for the trillion

In all areas it is convenient to know how to write the numbers in the correct way. In economics even more because we work, above all, with them. Therefore, we are going to offer a brief information on the two ways of writing numbers, the long and the short, all in relation to the billion.

  • The long scale, used in Spanish-speaking countries, is based on the powers of one million. Therefore, the trillion would be a million squared. Thus, this number would be represented as 1,000,000,000,000. Notice that they have been separated without points. This is due to the fact that today it is the accepted notation as correct, although the period (Spanish-speaking) and the comma (Anglo-Saxon) are still used.
  • The short scale is used mostly in the United States and English-speaking countries. It has a peculiarity and it consists in that it is the thousand and not the million that makes the difference. In this way, as we have already commented, the trillion (billion) is one billion and it is written 1 000 000 000.

The error when translating

Due to the difference in concept between the trillion and the billion, some translation errors have occurred. Keep in mind that the second stream (billion) was carried out by a group of mathematicians in the seventeenth century. The US used it first, the UK took a little longer to adopt it and it was in 1974 that the official numbering form was declared.

This number (billion), on the other hand, for some countries was the billion (billion). The trillion, as it is known among Spanish speakers, would be equivalent, as we have already mentioned, to the trillion in the Anglo-Saxon sphere, that is, one thousand trillion. It looks like a tongue twister, right? Hence the translation errors that occur.

American influence in Europe has contributed to these mistakes, which can sometimes be important. Above all, if we translate something without paying attention to possible inconsistencies, as we will see below. Because it is not the same, we insist, a trillion than a billion.

Some curious examples

The difference in concepts has sometimes led to confusion. If you ask a Spanish speaker to imagine a billion, it is likely that twelve zeros will come to mind! If you tell an American, they will imagine only nine. This is clear in some examples:

  • The GDP of the United States was 19.14 trillion US dollars. That is, in Hispanic or European nomenclature, it would correspond to something more than 19 billion dollars, not trillions.
  • A billionaire can make sense when represented as a billion. Rockefeller had (updated) 663,000 million US dollars in assets (663 billion). However, it would not have it with twelve zeros.

Therefore, when it comes to wealth, it is best to use the less precise term "billionaire" that could refer to someone who has several million of a coin. Something that is only available to a few. Well that’s if you’re not Japanese, because a million yen isn’t much. In fact, you can check it in our currency converter. Test, how many yen is 1 billion dollars?