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Metric Volume

These are the two most common measurements:

  • Milliliters
  • Liters



A milliliter (that is "milli" and "liter" put together) is a very small amount of liquid.

Here is a milliliter of milk in a teaspoon.

It doesn't even fill the teaspoon!

If you collect about 20 drops of water, you will have 1 milliliter:
20 drops of water droplet makes about 1 milliliter
And a teaspoon can hold about five milliliters:
1 teaspoon of liquid Teaspoonful is about 5 milliliters

Milliliters are often written as ml (for short), so "100 ml" means "100 milliliters".

liter water


A liter is just a bunch of milliliters put all together. In fact, 1000 milliliters makes up 1 liter.

1 liter = 1,000 milliliters

This jug has exactly 1 liter of water in it.

Liters are often written as L (for short), so "3 L" means "3 Liters".

Milk, soda and other drinks are often sold in liters.

The next time you are at the store take a minute and look on the labels to see how many liters (or milliliters) are in each container!

Liter is abbreviated L (some people use lowercase l, but that looks too much like 1).

Another way of thinking about a liter is:

  • A box that is 0.1 meters (10 cm) on each side,
  • One square meter that is millimeter thick.

Other Volume Measurements

You may come across these other volume measurements:

Cubic Meter (m3)

cubeVolume is length by length by length, so the basic unit of volume is a cube that is 1 meter on each side.

The Unit is written m3 (cubic meters).

So, a cube that is 1 meter on each side is a cubic meter (m3) ...

... and that is also equal to 1,000 liters.

1 m3 = 1,000 Liters

Megaliters (ML)

A Megaliter is a million liters (1,000,000 L). Useful for measuring large quantities of water, such as in lakes and dams.

Cubic Centimeter (cc)

A Cubic Centimeter (abbreviated cc or cm3) is a cube that is 1 centimeter on each side.

It is one-thousandth of a liter, and one-millionth of a cubic meter. Or to put it another way:

1 m3 = 1,000 L = 1,000,000 cm3
(one cubic meter = a thousand liters = a million cubic centimeters)

More Examples

A liter (L) is:

  • a bit more than a quart (US measure)
  • about the quantity in a sports drink bottle
  • close to the volume of a kilogram of water

A cubic centimeter is about:

  • the size of a grape