An Insight into the discovery of Large Numbers

Large numbers are much larger than what we use in our daily lives, and our engagement with numbers is limited to thousands in everyday transactions, but there is much more to it. Banks, astronomers, businesses, and government transactions include very large amounts, and these are the places where large numbers are actually put to use.

In this article, we’re going to learn about large numbers and their origin and also take a look at the history of numbers.

History of Large Numbers

The most significant number with a single-word name in ancient Greek was 10,000. It was called murios and borrowed from late Latin as “myrias.” From myrias, the word "myriad" was derived, which means “an extremely large number or amount.” The ancients also had the “myriad,” i.e., 10,000 multiplied by 10,000 or one hundred million.

At that time larger numbers were described in more round-about ways or through a mathematical notation; to quote an example, one million is expressed in Latin as decies centena milia or 10 × 100 × 1,000, and Archimedes (3rd century BCE) had to establish his system of mathematical notation to systematically express a higher digit number larger than the "myriad."

Origin of Large Numbers

  • The words “bymillion” and “trimillion” were first recorded in 1475 in a manuscript of Jehan Adam.
  • The term "Googol" was invented by a nine-year-old boy when he was asked a name for a large number with 100 zeroes after 1. He further developed “Googolplex” for a number having endless zeroes.

Usage of Large Numbers

These large numbers are generally used to denote the age of stars i.e.,in the field of cosmology, statistical mechanics, mathematics, and cryptography. These fields deal with large numbers only as the figures they reflect cannot be revealed through standard numbers.

Few examples of Large Numbers

  • Googol = 10100
  • Centillion = 10303 or 10600 
  • Millillion = 103003 or 106000
  • Micrillion = 103000003 or 106000000
  • The largest known Smith number = (101031−1) × (104594 + 3×102297 + 1)1476 ×103913210
  • The largest known Mersenne prime = 282,589,933 – 1
  • Googolplex = 10googol


With the advancements and the addition of new words, we can now denote large numbers in powers, but this was not the case in the past. The term “billion” did not exist in the French language until the 15th century, and it came into the English language as late as the 17th century.