etymology of yard/billion

This one is stumping me. I was wondering if anyone knew why yard came to mean billion. It definitely appears to be slang, and I assume that it is related to the unit of length but I can’t figure out the connection.:confused:

I found the following definition at

I’m gonna keep looking for a better reason

Slang for one billion Currency units. Used particularly in currency trading, e.g., for Japanese yen since one billion yen equals approximately US$10 million. It is clearer to say, “Im a buyer of a Yard of yen," than to say, "Im a buyer of a billion yen,” which could be misheard as “I`m a buyer of a million yen.”

Yeah, I found the same site. Unfortunately it doesn’t really help with the etymology though, just the definition. On a side note, does anyone know of this usage outside of financial (trading) circles? It seems to be pretty commonly used in investment banks, but the number of google cites seem to indicate that it may be confined to this area.

Also can anyone shed some light on how long this term has been around? Anyone remember it being used during the 80s?

Looks like “yard” in this context is short for “milliard”:

From here.

Wiktionary reckons “milliard” comes from the French for “billion”.

Thanks Ice Wolf.

In a final bit of irony, milliard now sounds almost like it should mean 1 million (ie milli-yard), hmmm…

Good theory, Ice Wolf, and it does sound plausible (a milliard, in case it wasn’t clear, was the British term for a thousand million back when a billion was a million million).

But Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang gives “yard” as a term for “100 or 1000, usually of dollars”, dating back to the 1920s in the US. No etymology, unfortunately, so my guess is that this usage evolved from meaning 1000 dollars to 1000 million dollars, among those who deal in such sums.

Still doesn’t really help with where the term originally came from, though.

It’s a theory that’s been previously expressed here at GQ, r_k.

Just in case you misunderstood, I wasn’t doubting your post about the origin of “milliard”, only that “yard” is short for “milliard” in this case, when the dictionary suggests an earlier usage meaning “a thousand of something”.
I couldn’t find anything discussing that in those threads.