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Glossary

Bitcoin Fractions

Bitcoins can be divided into fractions. So you could technically spend .15 of a Bitcoin on a purchase. The smallest fraction is one hundred millionth of a Bitcoin. This fraction is called a Satoshi. One Satoshi is 0.00000001 Bitcoin.A bitcoin can be divided down to 8 decimal places. Therefore, 0.00000001 BTC is the smallest amount that can be handled in a transaction. If necessary, the protocol and related software can be modified to handle even smaller amounts.

What are the various denominations of bitcoin?

Unlike most currencies, Bitcoin amounts are highly divisible. This has led to a desire to create names for smaller denominations of bitcoin amounts, especially since transactions involving whole bitcoins are no longer quite so common. Bitcoin is decentralized, so there is no organization that can set official names for units. Therefore, there are many different units with varying degrees of popularity. As of 2014, the most common units are bitcoins, bits, and satoshi: 1 bitcoin = 1 000 000.00 bits = 100 000 000 satoshi.

The bitcoin (abbreviated BTC or XBT) is the unit that was used in the original Bitcoin wallet software created by Satoshi Nakamoto. There is nothing particularly special about this unit, but it is by far the most common unit due to tradition.

The smallest value that the Bitcoin network supports sending is the satoshi (sometimes abbreviated sat), one hundred-millionth (0.000 000 01) of a bitcoin. In other words, the network does not support sending fractions of a satoshi. Since it is a hard limit, it seems natural to use it as a unit, though it currently has very little value. The unit was named in honor of Bitcoin's creator after he left -- he was not so vain as to name a unit after himself. The plural of satoshi is satoshi: "Send me 100 satoshi".

Another common unit is the bit, one millionth (0.000 001) of a bitcoin. This unit is the same as a microbitcoin (μBTC). Bits are seen by some as especially logical because they have two-decimal precision like most fiat currencies. You can send 1.23 bits, but not 1.234 bits due to the network's limited precision.

It is also fairly common to use SI prefixes:


   0.01 BTC = 1 cBTC = 1 centibitcoin (also referred to as bitcent)

   0.001 BTC = 1 mBTC = 1 millibitcoin (also referred to as mbit (pronounced em-bit) or millibit or even bitmill)

   0.000 001 BTC = 1 μBTC = 1 microbitcoin (also referred to as ubit (pronounced yu-bit) or microbit)


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