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The Metric System

The metric system is easy to learn. For use in your everyday life, you will only need to learn about ten new units. You will also have to get used to some new temperatures. But there are some metric units you are already familiar with - those for time and electricity are the same as the ones you use now.

The principle units of the metric system are the meter, which is the unit of length; the gram, which is the unit of weight; and the liter, which is the unity of capacity.

Other units in the metric system are the decimal subdivisions and multiples of the basic units, named by combining the proper prefix with the name of the basic unit to form self-defining terms. The prefixes commonly used are "milli-" meaning the one-thousandth part; "centi-" meaning the one-hundredth part; and "kilo-" meaning one thousand times. For example: milliliter means one one-thousandth of a liter; centimeter means one one-hundredth of a meter; and kilogram means one thousand grams.

This feature makes the metric system a "decimal" system like our monetary and numerations systems - and thus a much easier system to learn and use. You can even make comparisons with our monetary system that will help you to remember the various metric prefixes. There are ten mills in a cent, and ten millimeters in a centimeter. There are 100 cents in a dollar, and 100 centimeters in a meter.

Helpful Information


Department of Consumer Protection / Weights and Measures 
Michael D. Bannon, 
New Address:

Bucks County Administration Building
55 E. Court Street, 2nd Floor
Doylestown, PA 18901
Phone: 215-348-6060 or 1-800-942-2669
Fax: 267-885-1420