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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 10−2.[1] Hence a centimetre can be written as 10×10−3 m (engineering notation) or 1E−2 m (scientific E notation) — meaning 10 mm or 1 m/100 respectively. The centimetre is the base unit of length in the now deprecated centimetre-gram-second (CGS) 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 (between 3/8 in and 7/16 inch on an English inch ruler).


Equivalence to other units of length

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) [2]

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 [3]
  • in the CGS system, the centimetre is used to measure capacitance, where 1 cm of capacitance = 1.113×10 − 12 Farad [4]
  • 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 Korean (CJK) characters, Unicode has symbols for: [5]

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