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[des-uh-muh l, des-muh l] /ˈdɛs ə məl, ˈdɛs məl/
pertaining to tenths or to the number 10.
proceeding by tens:
a decimal system.
Origin of decimal
1600-10; < Medieval Latin decimālis of tenths, equivalent to Latin decim(a) tenth (derivative of decem ten) + -ālis -al1
Related forms
decimally, adverb
Can be confused
decimal, decimate, destroy (see usage note at decimate; see synonym study at destroy) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for decimals


Also called decimal fraction. a fraction that has a denominator of a power of ten, the power depending on or deciding the decimal place. It is indicated by a decimal point to the left of the numerator, the denominator being omitted. Zeros are inserted between the point and the numerator, if necessary, to obtain the correct decimal place
any number used in the decimal system
  1. relating to or using powers of ten
  2. of the base ten
(prenominal) expressed as a decimal
Derived Forms
decimally, adverb
Word Origin
C17: from Medieval Latin decimālis of tithes, from Latin decima a tenth, from decem ten
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for decimals



c.1600, from Medeival Latin decimalis "of tithes or tenths," from Latin decimus "tenth," from decem "ten" (see ten). Applied to Arabic notation before modern sense of "decimal fractions" emerged. As a noun from 1640s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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decimals in Science
  1. A representation of a real number using the base ten and decimal notation, such as 201.4, 3.89, or 0.0006.

  2. A decimal fraction.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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decimals in Culture

decimals definition

Fractional numbers (see fraction) expressed as whole numbers of tenths, hundredths, thousandths, and so on. One-half, for example, is 0.5 in decimal terms.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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