[ 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

dec·i·mal·ly, adverb

Can be confused

decimal decimate destroy (see usage note at decimate) (see synonym study at destroy) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for decimals

British Dictionary definitions for decimals


/ (ˈdɛsɪməl) /


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 for decimal

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

Science definitions for decimals


[ dĕsə-məl ]

A representation of a real number using the base ten and decimal notation, such as 201.4, 3.89, or 0.0006.
A decimal fraction.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Culture definitions for decimals


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.