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A centimetre (American spelling: centimeter, symbol cm) is a unit of length in the metric system, equal to one hundredth of a metre, which is the current SI base unit of length. Centi is the SI prefix for a factor of . Hence a centimetre can be written as (engineering notation) or (scientific E notation) — meaning or respectively,centimetre-gram-second system of units.

Though for many physical quantities, SI prefixes for factors of 103—like milli- and kilo-—are often preferred by technicians, the centimetre remains a practical unit of length for many everyday measurements. A centimetre is approximately the width of the fingernail of an adult person.
1 centimetre

Equivalence to other units of length

A carpenters' ruler with centimetre divisions
1 centimetre is equal to:
  • 0.01 metre, which can be represented by 1.00 E-2 m (1 metre is equal to 100 centimetres)
  • about 0.393700787401575 inch (1 inch is equal to 2.54 centimetres)

1 cubic centimetre is equal to 1 millilitre, under the current SI system of units.

Uses of centimetre

In addition to its use in the measurement of length, the centimetre is used:
  • sometimes, to report the level of rainfall as measured by a rain gauge
  • in the CGS system, the centimetre is used to measure capacitance, where 1 cm of capacitance = 1.113×10^{-12} Farad
  • in maps, centimetres are used to make conversions from map scale to real world scale (kilometres)
  • to represent second moment of areas (cm^4)

Unicode symbols

For the purposes of compatibility with Chinese, Japanese and Koreanmarker (CJK) characters, Unicode has symbols for:
  • centimetre (㎝) - code 339D
  • square centimetre (㎠) - code 33A0
  • cubic centimetre (㎤) - code 33A4

They are only useful with East Asian fixed-width CJK fonts, because they are equal in size to one Chinese character.

See also


  1. BIPM - SI prefixes
  2. Inch - from Eric Weisstein's World of Physics
  3. Rain Measurement, Rain Gauge, Wireless Rain Gauge, Rain Gage, Rain Gauge Data
  4. Capacitance - from Eric Weisstein's World of Physics
  5. [1] CJK Compatibility excerpt from The Unicode Standard, Version 4.1.

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