Meter vs. Metre – What is Correct?

TL;DR – “Meter” is primarily used in the American English language, while “metre” is primarily used in British English.

Especially or Specially

Within the intricate nuances of the English language, particularly when comparing American English and British English, certain words and their spellings become points of contention. “Meter” and “metre” are prime examples. To the uninitiated, these terms may appear interchangeable, but they boast distinct usages depending on the region and context.

1. Tracing the Roots: The split in spelling can be traced back to the broader divergence between American English and British English. Historically, American English has often simplified spellings, while British English has clung to its traditional forms, influenced by French, Latin, and other languages. The etymology of “metre” and “meter” both draw from the Greek “metron” and Latin “metrum,” denoting measure.

2. Meter: American English:

  • Here, “meter” dons a dual hat. It represents the unit of length (100 centimetres in the metric system) and also refers to measuring devices, from a gas meter gauging your home’s energy consumption to a parking meter ticking away on the streets. British English:
  • “Meter” is primarily reserved for measuring instruments. For instance, an electricity meter in the UK checks power usage.

3. Metre: British English (and Commonwealth countries like Canada, Australia, and India):

  • “Metre” denotes the metric unit of length. An example might be, “The garden spans 50 metres from end to end.” American English:
  • This version of the spelling seldom graces American texts unless referencing the metric unit in a scientific context.

4. Scientific Standards: For the science buffs and professionals, it’s pivotal to recognize that the International System of Units (SI), overseen by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris, officially endorses the “metre” spelling. Still, American scholarly articles and publications may lean towards “meter,” hinging on their individual style guides.

5. Practical Repercussions: Grasping this distinction is quintessential for lucid communication, particularly in global interactions. If you stumbled upon “kilometre” in a Wikipedia article or a British novel, the context makes its meaning apparent, even if an American reader might expect “kilometer.”

6. Other Instruments and Terms: In the realm of measurements, terms like “speedometer,” “ammeter,” or “centimetres” also surface, with their spellings slightly altered depending on the region. For example, while “centimetres” is common in the United Kingdom, “centimeters” is the preferred spelling in America.

Conclusion: The subtle differentiation between “meter” and “metre” encapsulates the fascinating evolution and rich tapestry of the English language. Whether penning a letter, drafting a report, or simply conversing, always remain attuned to your audience and the particular English dialect in play, ensuring both clarity and effective communication.


  • Is it metre or meter in Canada?

Published on: 2023-10-05
Updated on: 2023-10-05

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Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands is the SEO Director at SEO North, a company that provides Search Engine Optimization services. As an SEO Professional, Isaac has considerable expertise in On-page SEO, Off-page SEO, and Technical SEO, which gives him a leg up against the competition.