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A myriad (from
Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Mycenaean Greek (), Greek Dark ...
grc, μυριάς, translit=myrias, label=none) is technically the number 10,000 (ten thousand); in that sense, the term is used in English almost exclusively for
literal translation Literal translation, direct translation or word-for-word translation, is a translation of a text done by translating each word separately, without looking at how the words are used together in a phrase or sentence. In Translation studies, trans ...
s from
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group. *Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family. **Proto-Greek language, the assumed last common ancestor ...
,
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through ...
or Sinospheric languages ( Chinese,
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea ...
,
Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language **Korean alphabet, known as Hangul or Chosŏn'gŭl **Korean dialects and the Jeju language ** ...
, and
Vietnam Vietnam or Viet Nam ( vi, Việt Nam, ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,., group="n" is a country in Southeast Asia, at the eastern edge of mainland Southeast Asia, with an area of and population of 96 million, making it ...
), or when talking about ancient
Greek numerals Greek numerals, also known as Ionic, Ionian, Milesian, or Alexandrian numerals, are a system of writing numbers using the letters of the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late 9th or earl ...
. More generally, a myriad may be used in
colloquial Colloquialism (), also called colloquial language, everyday language or general parlance, is the style (sociolinguistics), linguistic style used for casual (informal) communication. It is the most common functional style of speech, the idiom norm ...
vernacular A vernacular or vernacular language is in contrast with a "standard language". It refers to the language or dialect that is spoken by people that are inhabiting a particular country or region. The vernacular is typically the native language, n ...
s to imply an indefinitely large number.


History

The
Aegean numerals Aegean numbers was an additive Sign-value notation, sign-value numeral system used by the Minoan civilization, Minoan and Mycenaean Greece, Mycenaean civilizations. They are attested in Linear A and Linear B scripts. They may have survived in t ...
of the
Minoan The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age Aegean civilization on the island of Crete and other Aegean Islands, whose earliest beginnings were from 3500BC, with the complex urban civilization beginning around 2000BC, and then declining from 1450BC ...
and
Mycenaean civilization Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, spanning the period from approximately 1750 to 1050 BC.. It represents the first advanced and distinctively Greek civilization in mainland ...
s included a single unit to denote tens of thousands. It was written with a symbol composed of a circle with four dashes 𐄫. In Classical
Greek numerals Greek numerals, also known as Ionic, Ionian, Milesian, or Alexandrian numerals, are a system of writing numbers using the letters of the Greek alphabet The Greek alphabet has been used to write the Greek language since the late 9th or earl ...
, a myriad was written as a capital mu: Μ, as lower case letters did not exist in Ancient Greece. To distinguish this numeral from letters, it was sometimes given an overbar: . Multiples were written above this sign, so that for example would equal 4,582×10,000 or 45,820,000. The etymology of the word ''myriad'' itself is uncertain: it has been variously connected to PIE ''*meu-'' ("damp") in reference to the waves of the sea and to Greek ''myrmex'' (, "ant") in reference to their swarms. The largest number named in
Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Mycenaean Greek (), Greek Dark ...
was the myriad myriad (written ) or hundred million. In his '' Sand Reckoner'',
Archimedes of Syracuse Archimedes of Syracuse (;; ) was a Greeks, Greek Greek mathematics, mathematician, physicist, engineer, astronomer, and Invention, inventor from the ancient city of Syracuse, Sicily, Syracuse in History of Greek and Hellenistic Sicily, Sicil ...
used this quantity as the basis for a numeration system of large powers of ten, which he used to count grains of sand.


Usage

In English, ''myriad'' is most commonly used to mean "some large but unspecified number". It may be either an
adjective An adjective (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is a word that describes a noun or noun phrase. Its semantic role is to change information given by the noun. Traditionally, adjectives were considered one of the main part of speech, par ...
or a
noun A noun () is a word that generally functions as the name of a specific object or set of objects, such as living creatures, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.Example nouns for: * Organism, Living creatures (including people ...
: both "there are myriad people outside" and "there is a myriad of people outside" are in use.Merriam-Webster Online.
Myriad
. 2013. Accessed 1 November 2013.
(There are small differences: the former could imply that it is a ''diverse'' group of people; the latter does not usually but could possibly indicate a group of exactly ten thousand.) The ''
Merriam-Webster Dictionary ''Webster's Dictionary'' is any of the English language dictionaries edited in the early 19th century by American lexicographer Noah Webster (1758–1843), as well as numerous related or unrelated dictionaries that have adopted the Webster's n ...
'' notes that confusion over the use of myriad as a noun "seems to reflect a mistaken belief that the word was originally and is still properly only an adjective ... however, the noun is in fact the older form, dating to the 16th century. The noun ''myriad'' has appeared in the works of such writers as Milton (plural 'myriads') and Thoreau ('a myriad of'), and it continues to occur frequently in reputable English." "Myriad" is also infrequently used in English as the specific number 10,000. Owing to the possible confusion with the generic meaning of "large quantity", however, this is generally restricted to translation of other languages like
ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Mycenaean Greek (), Greek Dark ...
, Chinese, and
Hindi Hindi (Devanāgarī: or , ), or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi (Devanagari: ), is an Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in the Hindi Belt region encompassing parts of North India, northern, Central India, centr ...
where numbers may be grouped into sets of 10,000 (myriads). Such use permits the translator to remain closer to the original text and avoid repeated and unwieldy mentions of "tens of thousands": for example, "the original number of the crews supplied by the several nations I find to have been twenty-four myriads" and "What is the distance between one bridge and another? Twelve myriads of parasangs".


Europe

Most European languages include variations of "myriad" with similar meanings to the English word. Additionally, the
prefix A prefix is an affix which is placed before the Word stem, stem of a word. Adding it to the beginning of one word changes it into another word. For example, when the prefix ''un-'' is added to the word ''happy'', it creates the word ''unhappy'' ...
'' myria-'' indicating multiplication times ten thousand (×104), was part of the original
metric system The metric system is a system of measurement that succeeded the Decimal, decimalised system based on the metre that had been introduced in French Revolution, France in the 1790s. The historical development of these systems culminated in the d ...
adopted by
France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a country primarily located in Western Europe. It also comprises of Overseas France, overseas regions and territories in the Americas and the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic, Pacific Ocean, Pac ...
in 1795. Although it was not retained after the 11th CGPM conference in 1960, '' myriameter'' is sometimes still encountered as a translation of the Scandinavian mile ( Swedish & Norwegian: ''mil'') of , or in some classifications of wavelengths as the adjective '' myriametric''. The '' myriagramme'' (10 kg) was a French approximation of the
avoirdupois The avoirdupois system (; abbreviated avdp.) is a measurement system A system of measurement is a collection of units of measurement and rules relating them to each other. Systems of measurement have historically been important, regulated and d ...
''quartier'' of and the '' myriaton'' appears in
Isaac Asimov Isaac Asimov ( ; 1920 – April 6, 1992) was an American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. During his lifetime, Asimov was considered one of the "Big Three" science fiction writers, along with Robert A. Heinlein and ...
's '' Foundation'' novel trilogy. In
Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the dialects of the Greek language spoken in the modern era, including the official standardized form of the ...
, the word "myriad" is rarely used to denote 10,000, but a million is ''ekatommyrio'' (, ''lit.'' 'hundred myriad') and a thousand million is ''disekatommyrio'' (, ''lit.'' 'twice hundred myriad').


Asia

In
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia, which is defined in both Geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cultural terms. The modern State (polity), states of East Asia include China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan. ...
, the traditional numeral systems of
China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dependencies by population, most populous country, with a Population of China, population exceeding 1.4 billion, slig ...
,
Korea Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) comprising its northern half and Sout ...
, and
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea of Japan, while extending from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north ...
are all
decimal The decimal numeral system (also called the base-ten positional numeral system and denary or decanary) is the standard system for denoting integer and non-integer numbers. It is the extension to non-integer numbers of the Hindu–Arabic numeral ...
-based but grouped into ten thousands rather than thousands. The character for myriad is in
traditional A tradition is a belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition is truth, true. In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer to attitudes about the world which can b ...
script and in simplified form in both
mainland China "Mainland China" is a geopolitical term defined as the territory governed by the People's Republic of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dep ...
and
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea of Japan, while extending from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north ...
. The pronunciation varies within China and abroad: ''wàn'' ( Mandarin), ''wan''5 (
Hakka The Hakka (), sometimes also referred to as Hakka Han, or Hakka Chinese, or Hakkas are a Han Chinese Han Chinese subgroups, subgroup whose ancestral homes are chiefly in the Hakka Chinese, Hakka-speaking provincial areas of Guangdong, Fujian, ...
), ''bān'' ( Minnan), ''maan''6 (
Cantonese Cantonese ( zh, t=廣東話, s=广东话, first=t, cy=Gwóngdūng wá) is a language within the Chinese (Sinitic) branch of the Sino-Tibetan languages originating from the city of Guangzhou (historically known as Canton) and its surrounding a ...
), ''man'' (
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea ...
and
Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language **Korean alphabet, known as Hangul or Chosŏn'gŭl **Korean dialects and the Jeju language ** ...
), and ''vạn'' ( Vietnamese). Because of this grouping into fours, higher orders of numbers are provided by the powers of 10,000 rather than 1,000: In China, 10,0002 was in ancient texts but is now called and sometimes written as 1,0000,0000; 10,0003 is 1,0000,0000,0000 or ; 10,0004 is 1,0000,0000,0000,0000 or ; and so on. Conversely, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean generally do not have native words for powers of one thousand: what is called "one million" in English is "100" (100 myriad) in the
Sinosphere The East Asian cultural sphere, also known as the Sinosphere, the Sinic world, the Sinitic world, the Chinese cultural sphere, the Chinese character sphere encompasses multiple countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia that were historically ...
, and "one billion" in English is "" (ten myllion) or "" (ten myriad myriad) in the Sinosphere. Unusually, Vietnam employs its former translation of , ''một triệu'', to mean 1,000,000 rather than the Chinese figure. Similarly, the PRC government has adapted the word to mean the scientific prefix
mega- Mega is a metric prefix, unit prefix in metric systems of units denoting a factor of one million (106 or 1000000 (number), ). It has the unit symbol M. It was confirmed for use in the International System of Units (SI) in 1960. ''Mega'' comes fro ...
, but transliterations are used instead for
giga- Giga ( or ) is a metric prefix, unit prefix in the metric system denoting a factor of a Long and short scales, short-scale billion or long-scale milliard (109 or 1000000000 (number), ). It has the symbol G. ''Giga'' is derived from the Ancient G ...
,
tera- A metric prefix is a unit prefix that precedes a basic unit of measure to indicate a multiple (mathematics), multiple or submultiple of the unit. All metric prefixes used today are decimal, decadic. Each prefix has a unique symbol that is prepen ...
, and other larger prefixes. This has caused confusion in areas closely related to the PRC such as
Hong Kong Hong Kong ( (US) or (UK); , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (abbr. Hong Kong SAR or HKSAR), is a List of cities in China, city and Special administrative regions of China, special ...
and
Macau Macau or Macao (; ; ; ), officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (MSAR), is a city and special administrative regions of China, special administrative region of China in the western Pearl River D ...
, where is still largely used to mean 10,0003. and are also frequently employed colloquially in expressions, clichés, and ''
chengyu ''Chengyu'' () are a type of traditional Chinese idiomatic expression, most of which consist of four Chinese character, characters. ''Chengyu'' were widely used in Classical Chinese and are still common in vernacular Chinese writing and in th ...
'' (idioms) in the senses of "vast", "numerous", "numberless", and "infinite". A skeleton key is a ("myriad-use key"), the
emperor An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch, and usually the sovereignty, sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife (empress consort), ...
was the "lord of myriad
chariot A chariot is a type of cart driven by a charioteer, usually using horses to provide rapid motive power. The oldest known chariots have been found in burials of the Sintashta culture in modern-day Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia, dated to c. 2000  ...
s" (), the
Great Wall The Great Wall of China (, literally "ten thousand Li (unit), ''li'' wall") is a series of fortifications that were built across the historical northern borders of ancient Chinese states and Imperial China as protection against Eurasian noma ...
is called ("Myriad-
mile The mile, sometimes the international mile or statute mile to distinguish it from other miles, is a imperial unit, British imperial unit and United States customary unit of distance; both are based on the older English unit of Unit of length, ...
Long Wall"),
Zhu Xi Zhu Xi (; ; October 18, 1130 – April 23, 1200), formerly romanized Chu Hsi, was a Chinese calligrapher, historian, philosopher, poet, and politician during the Song dynasty. Zhu was influential in the development of Neo-Confucianism. He con ...
's statement ("the moon reflects in myriad rivers") had the sense of supporting greater
empiricism In philosophy, empiricism is an Epistemology, epistemological theory that holds that knowledge or justification comes only or primarily from Empirical evidence, sensory experience. It is one of several views within epistemology, along with ra ...
in
Chinese philosophy Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in History of China#Ancient China, ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as wel ...
, and Ha Qiongwen's popular 1959 propaganda poster , meaning "Long live
Chairman The chairperson, also chairman, chairwoman or chair, is the presiding officer of an organized group such as a board, committee, or deliberative assembly. The person holding the office, who is typically elected or appointed by members of the gr ...
Mao Mao Zedong pronounced ; also Romanization of Chinese, romanised traditionally as Mao Tse-tung. (26 December 1893 – 9 September 1976), also known as Chairman Mao, was a Chinese communist revolutionary who was the List of national founde ...
", literally reads as " ayChairman Mao ive to be 10,000 years old". A similar term is the
Old Turkic Old Turkic (also East Old Turkic, Orkhon Turkic language, Old Uyghur) is the earliest attested form of the Turkic languages, found in Göktürks, Göktürk and Uyghur Khaganate inscriptions dating from about the eighth to the 13th century. It ...
word '' tümän'', whose variant forms remain in use for "ten thousand" among modern Mongolian, Turkish. According to Sir Gerard Clauson (1891–1974), it was likely borrowed from Tokharian, which may have been borrowed in turn from
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscriptions on oracle bones from around 12 ...
.


See also

* * Indian numbering system, which includes the
lakh A lakh (; abbreviated L; sometimes written lac) is a unit in the Indian numbering system equal to 100,000, one hundred thousand (100,000; scientific notation: 105). In the Indian numbering system, Indian 2,2,3 convention of Indian numbering ...
(10 myriad) * -yllion, a proposed system which uses the myriad as one of its basic number names *
Tumen (unit) Tumen, or tümen ("unit of ten thousand"; Old Turkic Old Turkic (also East Old Turkic, Orkhon Turkic language, Old Uyghur) is the earliest attested form of the Turkic languages, found in Göktürks, Göktürk and Uyghur Khaganate inscripti ...
, Turkic for "myriad" * Names of large numbers * Power of 10


References

{{Reflist Integers Units of amount 10000 (number)