What Is a Centimeter?

Article Details
  • Written By: Kathryn Pless
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 16 April 2015
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
Martin Luther King Jr. considered himself a "Trekkie" and persuaded Nichelle Nichols not to quit her role as Lt. Uhura.  more...

May 6 ,  1840 :  The first postage stamp was issued  more...

A centimeter is a unit of measurement in the metric system. The metric system of measurement is based on 10 as opposed to the imperial system of measurement which is based on units of 12. A centimeter is a unit of length equal to one hundredth of a meter; i.e. there are 100 centimeters in a meter.

One centimeter is equal to .4 inches. Conversion of a centimeter to inches is achieved by multiplying the centimeter by .39. Distance normally is measured in meters so that one mile would be the equivalent of 1.6 kilometers, or about 160,000 centimeters.

In 1795, the French Academy of Sciences developed a system of measurement to standardize measurements in France. Before this standardization, measurements varied from area to area. In 1875, the Treaty of the Meter was signed at the International Bureau of Weights and Measurements conference. Since that time the metric system has been adopted by many industrialized nations.

The scientific community uses the International System of Units (SI), which is a modern form of the metric system. This enables scientists from different countries and regions to duplicate research and gather data. Many scientists around the world have adopted the SI as a standard system of measurement.


Great Britain adopted the metric system in 1965. The United States government passed the Omnibus Trade and Competitive Act in 1988 that required the federal government and businesses to adopt the metric system by 1992. Still used by most people in the U.S., the imperial system continues to reign supreme. Globalization of the world economy however may force the metric hand on the rest of the U.S., essentially replacing the imperial system with the metric system.



You might also Like

Discuss this Article

Post 2

@Markerrag -- I think the metric system hasn't caught on in the United States for at least three reasons. First, we think of measurements in terms of imperial standards. We are inclined to think of distances in miles, inches, feet and yards rather than kilometers, centimeters, decameters and meters. Similarly, we think of gallons instead of liters when it comes to liquid measurements, and how hard would it be to translate recipes from imperial to metric?

Second, imagine the cost of converting to metric. Think of just a car and converting filling stations from gallons to liters. Think of drivers dealing with kilometers instead of miles (if the speed limit is 70 miles per hour, what does that mean in


Finally, who wants to be the first generation to make the transition from imperial to metric? Once the metric system is learned, it is easy but a lot of adjustments would have to me made and the brunt of that would fall on one generation or the other. It could be that people like the metric system, but want to shift the burden of transitioning to it to another generation.

Post 1

The metric system confuses me no end. I don't mean that it is hard to learn. I mean that we in the United States have refused to learn it.

The confusing thing is that it ought to come easy to us. Our money is based on tens, so how hard could it be to jump to that basis when considering measurements? We already use "metric money," so why not jump in with both feet like the rest of the world?

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?