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Metric Length

Last updated date: 23rd Apr 2024
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What is the Metric System?

The metric system can be defined as a system of measurement that uses the litre, metre, and gram as base units of metric length (distance), capacity (volume), and weight (mass) respectively.

To measure larger or smaller quantities, we use units derived from the metric units.

  • The units to the right of the base are lesser than the base unit. As we move to the right, each unit is ten times smaller or one-tenth of the unit to its left. So, the word ‘deci’ means one-tenth of the base unit, ‘centi’ is one-tenth of ‘deci’ or one-hundredth of the base unit and ‘milli’ is one-tenth of ‘centi’ or one-thousandth of the base unit.

  • The units to the left of the base unit are larger than the base unit. As we move to the left side, each unit is 10 times greater than the unit to its right side. So, a ‘deca’ means 10 times of the base unit, ‘hecto’ is ten times of ‘deca’ or hundred times of the base unit and ‘killo’ is ten times of ‘hecto’ or thousand times of the base unit.




Base Unit










So, the units for metric length, capacity(volume), and  weight (mass) in the metric system are:

Metric Length: Centimeter (cm), Millimeter (mm), Meter (m), Decimeter (dm), and Kilometer (km) are used to measure how wide or long, or tall an object is.

What is the SI Unit of Metric Length?

In the metric system, the SI unit of length is a meter which is defined as follows:

“The metric length of the path that is travelled by light in a vaccum within 1⁄299792458 seconds”.

Some of the other units also include:

  • Kilometres

  • Nanometer

  • Millimetres

  • Centimetres

  • Meters

  • Decimeters

For understanding how big the metric units are, look at the table below:




The thickness of a credit card or a plastic id card is about a millimetre thick


A fingernail is about a centimetre wide


A guitar is a meter long


The distance between cities is measured in kilometres

Other Non-SI Metric Length Units

If we take a look at the Imperial and U.S. customary systems, then the basic unit of metric length is the yard. Some other units include:

  • Thou (1⁄1000 of an inch)

  • Line (1⁄12 of an inch)

  • Inch (25.4 mm)

  • Foot (12 inches, 0.3048 m)


Measure of Metric Lengths

10 millimeters (mm) =

1 centimeter (cm)

10 centimeters (cm) =

1 decimeter (dm) = 100 millimeters

100 centimeter(cm) =

1 meter (m) = 1,000 millimeters

1000 meters (m) =

1 kilometer (km)

Examples include measuring the thickness or metric length of cloth, a debit card, or distance between 2 cities.

Kilometer (km) (Kiran)


Hectometer (hm) (Had)


Decameter (dam) (Drawn)


Meter (m) (Many)


Decimeter (dm) (Different)


Centimeter (cm) (Colourful)


Millimeter (mm) (Masks)


Converting Larger Units to Smaller Units

  • 1 centimeter = 10 millimeters

  • 1 meter = 100 centimeters

  • 1 meter = 1,000 millimeters

  • 1 kilometer = 1,000 meters

To Convert bigger units to smaller units we multiply the number of large units by the conversion factor for the appropriate smaller units.

The Table Given Below Makes Conversion Easy:

If You Have This

Do This

To Get This

Millimeters (mm)

Divide by 10 (mm/10)

Centimeter (cm)

Centimeters (cm)

Multiply by 10 (cm * 10)

Millimeters (mm)

Meters (m)

Multiply by 100 (m * 100)

Centimeters (cm)

Centimeters (cm)

Divide by 100 (cm/100)

Meters (m)

Millimeters (mm)

Divide by 1000 (mm/1000)

Meters (m)


Solved Examples on Unit Conversion

Example 1: Convert 5 km to m.

As 1 km = 1000 m

Therefore, 5 km equals 5 × 1000 equals 5000 m. 

Example 2: How do you Convert m to cm and mm?

In this activity, you will convert between metric units of metric length: kilometres, metres, centimetres, and millimetres.

1 km = 1000 m

1 m = 100 cm

1 m = 1000 mm

1 cm = 10 mm

Why Must Students Know About the Metric System?

The Metric System is important as without it, we would be completely confused about the units. It is completely scientific and has repeatable standards of measurement.  It uses units like meter, litre and gram so as to measure length, liquid, volume and mass. Students will need to know about the Metric System so as to understand all the different concepts that will be applicable in Math and the Science subjects. Having a standard system of measurement is the only way to go when measuring things as that clears all the confusions.

How can Students Make Notes for the Metric System?

  • They can go to Vedantu and then look for Metric Length - Explanation, Conversions, SI Unit, Measures, Problems, and FAQs

  • Read this carefully and then make notes

  • Condense everything that’s on the page by highlighting all the important parts

  • Compare what you’ve written with what’s on the page

  • Go through everything before the exams

  • Avoid skipping anything that’s on the page

Fun Facts

  1. A tonne is 1,000 kilograms.

  2. The metric system had its beginnings back in 1670 by a mathematician called Gabriel Mouton.

  3. Since the 1960s the metric system has been known as the "International System of Units" or "SI" (from the French "Système International").

  4. The prefixes of the metric system can be remembered with the help of the mnemonic “King Henry Died of Drinking Cold Milk”.

  5. There are various units greater than the kilo as well. These have prefixes mega, giga and tera. A mega is 1000 times a kilogram. A giga is thousand times mega and a tera is a thousand times giga.

FAQs on Metric Length

1. How are centimeters and meters related?

Both centimeters and meters are related as 1 meter equals to 100 centimeters. This relation along with the other relations have been explained in Metric Length - Explanation, Conversions, SI Unit, Measures, Problems, and FAQs.

This page is on Vedantu’s e-learning platform and is completely free of cost. All the measurements have been explained here for the student’s understanding and going through this thoroughly will educate them on how the metric system works. They can refer to it as many times as they want if they download it in a PDF format.

2. What is the SI unit of Metric Length?

As per the metric system, the SI unit of length is a meter. Some other units are kilometer, nanometer, milimeters, centimeter, meters and decimeter. Students can read more about it on Metric Length - Explanation, Conversions, SI Unit, Measures, Problems, and FAQs. This page has explained what the system international unit of metric length is along with the other units so that students can understand the units. Conversion of bigger units to the smaller ones have also been explained here.

3. Is there an easy method of memorizing the metric system?

Yes, students can memorize the metric system in fun ways if they wish to remember the different metrics.

Metric Length - Explanation, Conversions, SI Unit, Measures, Problems, and FAQs on Vedantu is an excellent page that sheds light on the entire metric system and its functioning. This page is the ideal guidebook for the students and has also mentioned the different ways in which the metric system can be memorized.  This page is a guidebook for all those students who are looking to get the basics of the metric system right and be able to apply them properly before exams.

4. What are the 7 Basic Units of Measurement in the Metric System?

The SI system, also called the metric system, is used around the world. There are seven basic units in the SI system, let’s know the units: the meter (m), the kilogram (kg), the second (s), the kelvin (K), the ampere (A), the mole (mol), and the candela (cd).

5. What is the Difference Between SI Units and Metric?

We can define the metric system as: “A decimal system of units is generally based on the meter as a unit length, the kilogram as a unit mass, and the second as a unit time.”It is commonly referred to as the SI, the full form of SI is Système International and it is also known as the International System of Units.