K abbreviation for 1000

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K abbreviation for 1000

Post by hsargent » Mon Sep 13, 2010 2:26 pm

Have we done this one?

What is the origin of K for 1000?

I know that us technical folks also use m for 1000 and mm for 1,000,000.
Signature: Harry Sargent

Re: K abbreviation for 1000

Post by Bobinwales » Mon Sep 13, 2010 3:17 pm

Kilometre, Kilogramme?
I only know mm as millimetre, and m as metre.
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Bob in Wales

Re: K abbreviation for 1000

Post by PhilHunt » Mon Sep 13, 2010 3:59 pm

M for 1000 is from Roman numerals.
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Re: K abbreviation for 1000

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Sep 13, 2010 4:25 pm

Harry, K, capitalized or lower case, is an abbreviation for KILO, meaning 1000 in such words as kilogram, kilometer, kilovolt, kilowatt, kilocalorie, kilobyte, etc. One might have thought that this abbreviation was quite old, but I found it surprising that it was actually so new and first used in connection with computers:


K: From its use as an abbreviation for kilo-. In connection with Computers K or k is used to represent 1,000 (or 1,024: see quotation 1970). Also used transferred to represent 1,000 (pounds, etc.), especially of salaries offered in job advertisements.
<1966 “The internal storage of computers is commonly arranged . . . to hold a quantity of data which is some power of 2, for example, 4096 characters, bytes or words, which is 2^12. The convention is to refer to this number as 4K. 64K . . . amounts to 65,536(2^16).”—Computer ABC by P. D. Reynolds, page 54>

<1968 (advertisement) “Engineers, Mini-Micro Programmers, Analysts . . . Salaries $15-45K.”—Data Communications, September, page 143/3>

<1970 “Sometimes, a ‘K’ is used for a number which is either 1,000 or 1,024, depending on whether the context calls for integral powers of 10 or 2. If we say that a certain computer has a memory capacity of 4 K words, then, this means either 4,000 or 4,096 words, depending on whether the computer in question has a decimal or binary address system. However, the usage is a little loose: the number 2^16 = 65,536 is written either as 64 K or 65 K.”—Computers & Data Processing by O. Dopping, ii. page 35>

As for the use of the letter m for 1000 and mm for 1,000,000, I am unfamiliar with that notation (for me a la Bob: m = meters and mm = millimeters). But my guess is that (a la Phil H.) it derives from a pseudo-Roman numeral system where M = 1000 and MM = 1,000,000 (a thousand thousand) – I say ‘pseudo’ because using the actual Roman numeral system MM = 2000 – and then at some point in the use of this pseudosystem the capital ‘M’ became a lower case ‘m.’

Ken – September 13, 2010

Re: K abbreviation for 1000

Post by hsargent » Mon Sep 13, 2010 11:18 pm

Thanks. I had not thought of kilo.

MM for million is probably capital letters. We also used M with a bar over it for million.
Signature: Harry Sargent

Re: K abbreviation for 1000

Post by marie26 » Mon Sep 13, 2010 11:18 pm

I may be stating the obvious, but isn't the 'm' for one thousand related to the latin'mille', meaning a thousand? The date of first usage is puzzling...
mil noun \ˈmil\
Definition of MIL
1: thousand <found a salinity of 38.4 per mil>
2: a monetary unit formerly used in Cyprus equal to 1⁄1000 pound
3: a unit of length equal to 1⁄1000 inch used especially in measuring thickness (as of plastic films)
4: a unit of angular measurement equal to 1⁄6400 of 360 degrees and used especially in artillery
Origin of MIL
Latin mille thousand
First Known Use: 1721

Re: K abbreviation for 1000

Post by PhilHunt » Tue Sep 14, 2010 8:38 am

The date probably relates to the first recorded usage in English language writing, not the first recorded usage in Latin texts.

Though I did not state it in my earlier post, the Latin M does come from Mille (thousand).
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Re: K abbreviation for 1000

Post by Wizard of Oz » Tue Sep 14, 2010 11:39 am

.. you bloody beaut !!! .. *getting out soapbox* .. in Aus I am sick to death of the unwashed media announcers constantly referring to rainfall as 30 mils .. rainfall is measured in linear terms .. in millimetres, mm, and NOT as a volumetric measure in millilitres, mL .. the abreviation for millimetres, mL, is commonly pronounced as mils .. mm has no such pronunciation and is simply referred to as millimetres .. here endth the sermon, the lesson will be read by Ptolemy ..

WoZ who loves mL of wine
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: K abbreviation for 1000

Post by hsargent » Tue Sep 14, 2010 2:26 pm

With the little bit I have read about Australia, there are areas that ml of moisture may be more correct!
Signature: Harry Sargent

Re: K abbreviation for 1000

Post by trolley » Tue Sep 14, 2010 6:14 pm

WoZ, I hear the same thing over here with rainfall being expressed as "mils".
"The storm dropped 20 mils of rain at the airport, overnight"
That's equal to the thickness of a few sheets of writing paper or less than 10 human hairs. Hardly worth a mention.

Re: K abbreviation for 1000

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Sep 15, 2010 2:11 am

Marie et al, This is definitely a somewhat confusing subject.

In ‘modern’ usage the mil has taken on only two meaning that I am aware of:

mil noun [1872 according to the OED]:

1a) A unit of length equal to one thousandth of an inch (in the U.S.) or .001 inches used in such applications as measuring metal thicknesses, wire diameters, and, as John (a.k.a. trolley) mentioned above, the total depth of rainfall in a single rain episode or in mils/hour for the rate of rainfall at any given time and over any time interval during a single rainfall episode, etc. In the U.S. rainfall is usually measured in linear terms as total inches or as a rate in inches per hour.

2a) A unit of angular measure, mainly used in astronomy, is equal to one thousandth of a radian [where there are 2π radians in a circle, with a radian being exactly 360°/2π or about 57.3° and with one thousandth of a radian being about 3.438 minutes of arc (arcminutes). Your definition (4) is an approximation for a mil used in military artillery calculations. Their approximation of 1⁄6400 of 360° for a mil, which was originally used for ease of calculation (and stuck – you know how those things go) comes out to be 3.375 arcminutes, whereas it should be 1/6283 of 360° to agree with the more precise astronomy value of 3.438 arcminutes – but this is close enough for government work. (<:)

I’ve never heard of number (1) on your mil list, but guessing how that came about, it could stand for grams per kilogram (g/kg), that is grams of salt per kg of pure water, which may be expressed as the unitless quanity 1/1000, which could conceivably stand for parts of salt per thousand parts of pure water. So, in an attempt to reconstruct (1), we could have 38.4 g parts of salt per kg parts pure water, or 38.4 parts per thousand parts, or 38.4 parts per mil, or, sloppily abbreviated, 38.4 per mil – and again you know how these things go.

Here are two possible derivations for mil:

1b) In Latin it is short for mīllēsimus, thousandth, from mīlle, thousand. And while we’re at it, it is also true that the metric prefix milli- derives from the Latin mīlli-, which itself also derives from mīlle, thousand. (American Heritage Dicionary and Oxford English Dictionary)

2b) A variant of mill, one thousandth of a dollar (one tenth of a cent), a money of account in the United States and Canada, especially in reckoning rates of taxation and which itself was a shortening from the classical Latin, millēsimum, thousandth part. (Oxford English Dictionary

And now for some further confusion: The prefix milli- has two meanings:

1c) Very rare. It is a prefix meaning one thousand.’ And, in fact, the only non-archaic or non-obsolete word I could think of that uses it is ‘milllipede,’ which actually has a lot of legs but not a thousand.

2c) In the metric system it is widely used in the names of units equal to one thousandth of the given base unit [millimeter (.001 of a meter), milliliter (.001 of a liter), gram (.001 of a kilogram), kilovolt, kilowatt, kilocalorie, kilobyte, etc.

Another ‘mil-related’ word that comes to mind is millennium, a period of one thousand years. But this one comes directly from the Latin mīlle (with two L's and an 'e', meaning one thousand).

And as far as the date of first use, I agree with Phil H. that it is believed by some that the first use in English print was in 1721. But if you want to be even more surprised, the June, 2010, revision of the Oxford English Dictionary puts the date for first in print of mil as 1872.

<1872 “I find it convenient to express the specific inductive capacity . . . in terms of the quantity of electricity which a plate . . . one thousandth of an inch (or one mil) thickness is capable of containing.”—in Journal of the Society of Telegraph Engineers by R. Sabine 1, page 246>

Ken – September 14, 2010

Re: K abbreviation for 1000

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:41 am

WoZ mentioned a usage of 'mil' which in Britain, at least, is quite common. That is how 'ml.' (the abbreviation of 'millilitre(s)') is usually pronounced, frequently in contexts where precision of dosing or dosage is important, such as in medicine, veterinary practice or agriculture (e.g. when diluting a chemical concentrate).

Otherwise, 'mil' may be known to some older Britons as 1/1000 inch, which was the unit in which feeler gauges (thin flat probes typically used for measuring gaps, tolerances and clearances in engineering and automotive contexts) were often calibrated ("You need to set the spark gap to three-and-a-half mil [or mils]"), as well as being the unit in which, as Marie mentioned, the thickness of plastic film and sheet metal was often expressed, and in the US still is.

Concerning item 2b on Ken's list, the Wikipedia article on property tax has this to say:
The property tax rate is often given as a percentage. It may also be expressed as a permille (amount of tax per thousand currency units of property value), which is also known as a millage rate or mill levy. (A mill is also one-thousandth of a currency unit.) To calculate the property tax, the authority will multiply the assessed value of the property by the mill rate and then divide by 1,000. For example, a property with an assessed value of US $50,000 located in a municipality with a mill rate of 20 mills would have a property tax bill of US $1,000 per year. In more familiar terms, dividing the mills by 10 (moving the decimal point to the left by one) yields the percentage rate — 20 mills = 2.0%. Symbolically, 20‰ = 2% — cancel a '0'.
Going back to the topic with which I began this post, 1 millilitre is identical in volume to 1 cubic centimetre, or 1 c.c. Like most of Europe, Britain has nominally adopted the metric system for weights, measures and in science, although there are many Britons who are determined to hang on to their ounces, pounds, yards and inches till they are fully six feet under.
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Re: K abbreviation for 1000

Post by JANE DOErell » Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:09 pm

I was watching an old TV show last evening where a word pronounced ''mil'' was used to mean a 'million dollars'. It was one of those true crime type dramatizations so I've no way of know if it were slang created by the writers or if it represented street slang at the time. The setting would have been Alaska in the 1990s.

Re: K abbreviation for 1000

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:24 pm

Jane, mil is legitimate slang for a million dollars.

Here are some more U.S. slang money words:

25 ¢: quarter, two bits

$1: buck, single

$2: deuce, a Jefferson, a T. J.

$5: fiver, fin, five-spot

$10: sawbuck, ten-spot, a Hamilton

$20: double sawbuck, a Jackson

$100:] C-note, C, Benjamin, a Franklin, Century Note

$1000: K, grand, G

$1,000,000: mil

Some other terms for money:

dead presidents, although not all depict a president ($10 has Hamilton, $100 bill has Franklin)

bacon, bread, cabbage, clams, dough, folding money, gelt, greenbacks, jack, lettuce, loot, moolah, scratch, smackers

Ken – September 15, 2010


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