[des-uh-muh l, des-muh l]


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 formsdec·i·mal·ly, adverb
Can be confuseddecimal 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

Historical Examples of decimals

  • It looks a little odd, you know; but the decimals can't get through a bucket.

    Shorty McCabe

    Sewell Ford

  • The title should, of course, read "to 607 Places of Decimals."

  • Without bothering with all these decimals, a kilometre is about five-eighths of a mile.

    Asiatic Breezes

    Oliver Optic

  • With regard to decimals and units, I made a discovery which is, I think, worth stating.


    Henny Kindermann

  • Fergus knew the proportion as far as thirty-three figures in decimals.

    Stories of Invention

    Edward E. Hale

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 Formsdecimally, 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

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

decimals in Science



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.

decimals in Culture


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.