Printable Version
Pronunciation: gu-gl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: The number represented by a one with a hundred zeroes after it.

Notes: It is important when you are balancing your checkbook that you never confuse a googol with a googolplex, a number with a 1 followed by a googol of zeros. It is easy to do, given the similarity in pronunciation and spelling.

In Play: So, if I'm not a mathematician without enough to occupy my mind, how can I use this word? Funny you should ask. The obvious place is on the invitations to your parties: "Come to our party Saturday night for gaggles of gags and googols of giggles." (That kind of silly hyperbole should limit the attendance to full-time fun-lovers.) If you are totally immune to silly alliteration and hyperbole, you could refer to googols of googly-eyed fans surrounding a rock star. But then most of us wouldn't.

Word History: This word was coined in 1938 by Milton Sirotta, the 9-year-old nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner. When Ed asked him for a name for a very large number, he replied with what he thought was a ridiculous word. The Google spelling was taken by the web search engine from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979) by Douglas Adams, in which one of Deep Thought's designers asks, "And are you not . . . A greater analyst than the Googleplex Star Thinker in the Seventh Galaxy of Light and Ingenuity, which can calculate the trajectory of every single dust particle throughout a five-week Dangrabad Beta sand blizzard?" (No, this isn't an April Fool's gag, but a legitimate word spotted by our friend with the eye for funny words at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Ray Johnson.)

Dr. Goodword,

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