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Number Prefixes

Kilo, mega, giga, tera, and peta are among the list of prefixes that are used to denote the quantity of something, such as, in computing and telecommunications, a byte or a bit. Sometimes called prefix multipliers, these prefixes are also used in electronics and physics. Each multiplier consists of a one-letter abbreviation and the prefix that it stands for.

In communications, electronics, and physics, multipliers are defined in powers of 10 from 10-24 to 1024, proceeding in increments of three orders of magnitude (103 or 1,000). In IT and data storage, multipliers are defined in powers of 2 from 210 to 280, proceeding in increments of ten orders of magnitude (210 or 1,024). These multipliers are denoted in the following table.

Prefix Symbol(s) Power of 10 Power of 2
yocto- y 10-24 * --
zepto- z 10-21 * --
atto- a 10-18 * --
femto- f 10-15 * --
pico- p 10-12 * --
nano- n 10-9 * --
micro- m 10-6 * --
milli- m 10-3 * --
centi- c 10-2 * --
deci- d 10-1 * --
(none) -- 100 20
deka- D 101 * --
hecto- h 102 * --
kilo- k or K ** 103 210
mega- M 106 220
giga- G 109 230
tera- T 1012 240
peta- P 1015 250
exa- E 1018 * 260
zetta- Z 1021 * 270
yotta- Y 1024 * 280
* Not generally used to express data speed
** k = 103 and K = 210
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