The new iPod nano is nifty, but what precisely does “nano” mean?

People love to understand the significance behind the names of the products they use. Apple fans seem to be more curious than most. (For example, don’t you want to know what the “I” in “iPad” stands for? (Click here for the answer.)

This week, Steve Jobs announced a makeover for the iPod nano. You’re probably familiar with “nano-“ from before it was a music player, mainly in the word nanotechnology and maybe, if you have geeky inclinations, in the concept of nanobots. Clearly, nano- means small, but what is the precise degree of diminutive in the definition?

One billionth, that’s how tiny we’re talking. Nano derives from the Greek nanos, which means “dwarf,” and words like nanoliter and nanogram in fact mean “a billionth of a liter” and “a billionth of a gram.” But other nano- terms are satisfied simply to mean “darn small.” Nanoplankton is an example.

If it seems to you like nano- is overused, you aren’t alone. Students at Adelaide University poked fun at the saturation of “nano-this” and “nano-that” by coining the term “nanofortnight,” meaning “one-billionth of a fortnight (two weeks), equaling approximately 1.2 miliseconds.  Here’s a suggestion:   Femto-,  pico-, and zepto- signify even smaller increments than nano-. Let’s s start introducing these size designations into conversation. Maybe Apple will debut the iPod Zepto in a few years.

Time to expand your horizons —what are the words for the biggest numbers in existence? Learn some large language, here.


  1. amit kumar -  March 3, 2015 - 1:06 am

    This is a Great article.

  2. cosmetics -  November 15, 2012 - 12:15 am

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  3. wazzup pplz -  September 7, 2010 - 9:49 am

    what do you people think about the ipad??

  4. From New Zealand -  September 6, 2010 - 6:24 pm

    ‘Nano’ means very small, ‘a nano of a second’ is approx a billionth of a second.

  5. ummmmm ya know -  September 3, 2010 - 4:52 am

    Great now i want an iPod nano

  6. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  September 2, 2010 - 3:47 pm

    “Nanofiles” are “leptomaniacs.”

  7. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  September 2, 2010 - 3:45 pm

    ‘Dread’ to think what the original unit-size iPod must have looked like, given what the Nano looks like… 1000×1000×1000-times bigger:

    The Nano, as specified on the Apple.com website, is–

    1.48 inches (37.5 mm) × 1.61 inches (40.9 mm) × 0.35 inch (8.78 mm), 0.74 ounces (21.1 grams; depending on manufacturing process), 0.614 cu. inch (10.056 cc)….

    So, the ‘non nano’ original iPod was–

    1480 inches (123.3 ft., 37.5 m) × 1610 inches (134.2 ft., 40.9 m) × 350 inch (29.2 ft., 8.78 m), 740M ounces (26.1M lb., 21.1K tonnes; depending on manufacturing process), 614M cu. inch (355.3K cu. ft., 10.056K cm)….


  8. rolling my eyes -  September 2, 2010 - 3:03 pm

    Did you know that some of the essencial small nano parts that make up the Spaceshuttle are manufactured by a small family run companies with a few employees. Some country prefer big while others small: it is a matter of survival technique.

  9. Waldo Pepper -  September 2, 2010 - 2:46 pm

    Mork from Ork actually said “Nanu Nanu”

  10. christian hecht -  September 2, 2010 - 2:40 pm

    wtf i sort of dont get the concept of this article only that the article is talking about the ipod nano and why its called ipod “nano” writer of this article help me out here send me a message at newsboys8@hotmail.com thanx =D

  11. carl -  September 2, 2010 - 2:35 pm


  12. NANO NANO | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  September 2, 2010 - 2:17 pm

    [...] “NANO NANO” said MORK from ORK who arrived on Earth in an EGG_POD — Shazbot came second — Where Apple began having grown into a full sized Robot. — One mustn’t be small minded where technology is a steak — and all you can afford is the beans — at least they’re taking care of the nanobots — the little guys with the ways and means.–>>Rupert L.T.Rhyme [...]

  13. Lela Jenkins -  September 2, 2010 - 1:50 pm

    This is a cool article. I actually learned something. :)
    I want an iPod Zepto!


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