The difference between “metre” and “meter”

“Metre” is the British spelling of the unit of length equal to 100 cm, and “meter” is the American spelling of the same unit. However, “meter” is also used in British English, but it means something different.

A “meter” in British English is an instrument for measuring. You have several of them at home – a water meter, a gas meter and an electricity meter. The man with a clipboard who rings your doorbell when you’re just about to step into the shower on a Saturday morning has come to read your meter. And you put money into them when you park on the side of the road in the city centre – parking meters. “Meter” also has this meaning in American English.

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12 Responses to The difference between “metre” and “meter”

  1. SC says:

    It is not the British spelling, it is the French. They invented it and the British are not arrogant enough to change another country’s spelling of a word.

  2. chicken says:

    very good

  3. egg says:

    even better

  4. Bans says:

    That’s true

  5. Thanks, my science teacher was spelling it differently and now I can correct him. Ha! In your face Science Teacher! (Not giving out his real name for privacy reasons).

  6. John says:

    I am surprised at you guys.
    Metre is from the Greek Μετρον, (metron) meaning measure. It has been used from 1000bc to date. Also the verb is Metro which means I measure. So the correct is definitely metre. Cheers

    • John – Interesting contribution – thanks. But neither “meter” nor “metre” is incorrect. They are English words (not Greek words) with slightly different usages in British and American English. I assume you’re correct in pointing out that they derive from Greek, but that’s the entirety of their connection to Greek. They’re English words now and we spell them as English words.

      • Prineas John says:

        I acknowledge your point. Usage makes the changes over the years. Same applies to CENTRE and CENTER. etc….

      • victormollo says:

        Depending on your definition of English. As it is a physical standard, I would go with the SI and say that metre is correct. And yes, that is not English it is French.

        For me it is like Microsoft introducing the backslash as a divider, rather than Unix’s forward slash. They wanted to be different, to establish their own standard. Nobody benefitted.

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