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What Is a Decaliter?

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  • Written By: Christian Petersen
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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A decaliter is a metric unit of volume that is equal to 10 liters. The word is not commonly used in everyday language, as most volume measurements are given in the form of liters, cubic centimeters, or meters. A decaliter is more common as a unit of measurement in industry, science, and medicine.

The metric system is the standard system of measurement used by most of the world. The original metric system, which originated in France, used the liter as its standard unit of volume. The new international standard, or SI system, does not officially recognize the liter as a unit and measures volume in cubic meters instead. The liter, however continues to be accepted for use with the SI standard, though not officially part of it. Liters may be used with official SI prefixes and suffixes, and deca is the prefix that means a multiplier of ten, hence the term decaliter and its meaning.

Water and its mass are intrinsic to the units and the measurements of the metric system. A milliliter, or cubic centimeter, of water has a mass of 1 gram. A liter of water therefore has a mass of 1,000 grams, or 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs). This means that a decaliter of water has a mass of 10,000 grams or 10 kilograms, which is roughly equal to 22 pounds.

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A decaliter, as a unit of volume, is equal to 10 liters, or 10,000 cubic centimeters. As a cubic centimeter is identical in volume to a milliliter, a decaliter can also be said to equal 10,000 milliliters. A decaliter is roughly equivalent to 2.6 US standard liquid gallons and 2.2 British imperial gallons.

The word liter, and hence decaliter, have alternate spellings. In the US, liter is the accepted spelling, while in Europe and the rest of the world, "litre" is used, yielding the alternate "decalitre." Two primary abbreviations for decaliter are recognized internationally. The first is dal and the second is dkl, with the lowercase letter "l" sometimes being capitalized, daL, for example. The second term comes from two other alternate spellings of decaliter: "dekaliter" and "dekalitre." These terms and abbreviations are all interchangeable and have the same meaning.

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