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googolplex

verb [intransitive/transitive]

to increase by an unimaginably large number

googolplexed

adjective

googolplex

number

the number

'Since we introduced the pocket numbers game into the United Kingdom in November, it has googolplexed into a national craze and international pandemic.'

Times Online 14th May 2005

'And this year being an election year, with a high probability that the government would increase money supply to "buy" votes, it seems that there would be more pressure on the value of the Cedi to slide further …. Sooner or later the Cedi will be googolplexed!'

www.ghanaweb.com 18th April 2000

in recent years the term googolplex has been used … with the figurative sense of 'to increase by an extremely large, unimaginable number'

Imagine a number so big that to write it down would need a supply of paper bigger than the known universe! This number, coined googolplex, is the number ten, raised to the power ten, in turn raised to the power one hundred. It represents an unimaginably large, but not infinite, number. In recent years the term googolplex has been used as a verb, both transitively and intransitively as the citations above show, with the figurative sense of 'to increase by an extremely large, unimaginable number'. There is some evidence for a related participle adjective googolplexed.

Background – googolplex

Although googolplex as a verb is a relatively recent usage, the number itself was coined as far back as the 1930s by nine-year-old Milton Sirotta, nephew of the American mathematician Edward Kasner. Kasner asked the little boy what he thought would be a good name for the number one followed by a hundred zeroes, and Milton came up with googol, a word which nearly 60 years later inspired the name of the popular Internet search engine Google™. Milton also suggested the word googolplex as a name for the number one followed by a googol zeroes.

The US-based corporation Google Inc. claims that using a name which is a play on the word googol reflects its mission to 'organize the immense, seemingly infinite amount of information available on the Web'. The company's headquarters are named the Googleplex after the number googolplex. Though the search engine is capable of indexing four billion web pages, this is far less than a googol, and a mere fraction of a googolplex!

A process noun googolplexing also exists, but this usually refers to the activity of successfully receiving a Google™ search link as the top result of a Google™ search. The name Google has in turn formed the basis of a number of expressions in the same domain. As well as being used as a verb referring generally to the activity of 'using an Internet search engine', it features in expressions such as Google bombing, meaning 'manipulating search results so that a particular website is at the top', Googlewashing, meaning 'replacement of an old meaning of a word for a new one based on the top search results achieved' and Google juice, meaning 'the power/influence of a particular website and its consequent ranking in Google™ search results'.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 25th July 2005.

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