What is a Centimeter? - Definition & Conversion

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Instructor: T.J. Hoogsteen

T.J. is currently a grade 5 teacher and Vice-Principal. He has a master's degree in Educational Administration and is working toward an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership.

In this lesson, learn about a metric unit of measurement called a centimeter. See how this unit of length compares to other units of length as well as how it is converted.

Centimeter Definition

If you've ever see a ruler, you may have asked yourself 'what is a centimeter?' Well you're in luck, because that is the very question that this lesson will answer.

A centimeter is a metric unit of length. You may also see centimeter spelled as centimetre. Both spellings are correct, and both mean the same thing. Sometimes on a ruler it may be marked cm, and this is the abbreviation for centimeter.

A centimeter is comparable to the imperial unit of measure known as inches. You will notice when looking at the ruler that on one side there are markings to measure centimeters, and on the other side there are markings to measure inches. This is actually quite common.

You may also notice when comparing the sizes of the two units of measure that centimeters are smaller than inches. 1 centimeter is equal to 0.3937 inches, or 1 inch is equal to 2.54 centimeters. In other words, 1 centimeter is less than half as big as an inch, so you need about two-and-a-half centimeters to make one inch.

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