Windocd 1 6 Cm
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The Metric System, Abbreviations, and Conversions
for Common Units of Measure
for Common Units of Measure
Length and Distance Volume Liquid Volumes Mass Area Temperature Pressure
Humidity Concentration Salinity pH Time
This page presents the most common abbreviations you will use in general biology, especially those for units of measure.
General Rules for Abbreviating Units of Measure
- Always abbreviate units when reporting numerical information.
- Unless otherwise noted, singular and plural units are abbreviated the same.
- Percent is not abbreviated, but is represented by the familiar '%' symbol.
- Always put a space between the number and unit, e.g., 203.65 m, 457 um
- pH: The proper method for reporting pH is to place the unit before the number (pH 7); never insert the word 'of' between the unit and number and avoid splitting the unit and number within a sentence - they should always go together.
- When do you abbreviate units vs. spelling out the unit(s) as word(s)?
- abbreviate units when you are reporting a numerical value:
'The maximum depth achieved by the ROV was 124 m approximately 2.3 km due south of Pt. Lobos.'
- spell out the unit as a word when using it in a non-numerical context, e.g.,
'All measurements were made in millimeters unless otherwise indicated.'
- When starting a sentence with a number and unit, both must be spelled out as words (this is something to avoid, if possible), e.g.,
'One thousand six hundred and eighty-seven kilograms of ground beef were randomly sampled and tested for E.coli contaminants between 21 August and 21 November, 1995.'
The Metric System
The Metric System of measurement is the standard used by most scientific disciplines. The system is based upon measures of distance (in meters), volume (in liters), and mass (in grams). Scales of measurements increase or decrease as multiples of ten which facilitates expression of measurement values using the decimal system. The table below shows the most common prefixes and their relative magnitudes. Note that web browsers do not support use of superscripts and subscripts very well, so the notation 10^2 means '10 to the power of 2, or 10 squared'. Similarly, the notation 10-2 should be read as '10 to the power of -2'.
Prefix | Scientific Notation | Decimal equivalents | Example Units |
kilo- (k) | = 10^3 | = 1000 | kilogram (kg); kilometer (km) |
centi- (c) | = 10-2 | = 0.01 | centimeter (cm) |
milli- (m) | = 10-3 | = 0.001 | milligram (mg); millimeter (mm) |
micro- (u) | = 10-6 | = 0.000001 | microgram (ug) microliter (uL) |
nano- (n) | = 10-9 | = 0.000000001 | nanogram (ng) nanoamperes (nA) |
pico- (p) | = 10-12 | = 0.000000000001 | picogram (pg) picoamperes (pA) |
Conversions
Units of Distance and Length |
1 km = 1000 m; 1 m = 100 cm = 1000 mm = 10^6 um = 10^9 nm | ||
Metric Unit | = English Unit | |
millimeters centimeters centimeters meters meters meters kilometers kilometers | 0.394 0.0328 39.4 3.28 1.1 3,281 0.621 | inches (in) inches feet (ft) inches feet yards (yd) feet miles (mi) |
1 mi = 1,760 yd = 5,281 ft; 1 yd = 3 ft = 36 in | ||
English Unit | = Metric Unit | |
inches (in) inches inches feet (ft) yards (yd) yards miles (mi) | 2.54 0.0254 30.48 91.44 0.9144 1.609 | millimeters centimeters meters centimeters centimeters meters kilometers |
Units of Mass
1 mt (metric ton) = 1000 kg = 2,205 lb 1 kg = 1000 g = 2.205 lb = 35.2802 oz 1 g = 1000 mg = 10^6 ng = 10^9 pg | ||
Metric Unit | = English Unit | |
gram (g) | ounces (oz) | |
kilogram (kg) | pounds (lb) | |
metric ton (mt) | ton (t) | |
1 ton = 2000 lb = 907.2 kg or 0.9072 mt 1 lb = 16 oz = 0.4536 kg = 453.6 g | ||
English Unit | = Metric Unit | |
ounce (oz) | grams (g) | |
pound (lb) | kilograms (kg) | |
tons (t) | metric tons (mt) |
Units of Volume
1 cm^3 (or cc) = 1000 mm^3 = 0.061 in^3 1 m^3 = 10^6 cm^3 = 61,024 in^3 = 35.31 ft^3 = 1.308 yd^3 | ||
Metric Unit | = English Unit | |
cubic centimeters (cm^3) | cubic inches (in^3) | |
cubic meters (m^3) | cubic feet (ft^3) | |
cubic meters | cubic yards (yd^3) | |
1 yd^3 = 27 ft^3 = 0.7646 m^3 | ||
English Unit | = Metric Unit | |
cubic inches | cubic centimeters | |
cubic feet | cubic meters | |
cubic yards | cubic meters |
Units of Liquid Volumes
1 ml (or cm^3) = 1000 ul = 0.03 fl oz (fluid ounces) | ||
Metric Unit | = English Unit | |
milliliters (ml) | fluid ounces (fl oz) | |
liters (L) | pints (pt) | |
liters (L) | quarts (qt) | |
1 qt = 2 pt = 32 fl oz = 946.4 ml or 0.9464 L 1 pt = 16 fl oz = 473.2 ml or 0.213 L 1 fl oz = 29.57 ml | ||
English Unit | = Metric Unit | |
teaspoons (tsp) | milliliters (ml) | |
tablespoons (tbsp) | milliliters | |
fluid ounces (fl oz) | milliliters | |
cups (c) | liters (L) | |
pints (pt) | liters | |
quarts (qt) | liters | |
US gallons (US gal) | liters |
Units of Area
1 ha (hectare) = 10,000 m^2 = 107,600 ft^2 = 2.471 A 1 m^2 = 10,000 cm^2 = 1,000,000 mm^2 = 1,550 in^2 = 1.196 yd^2 1 cm^2 = 100 mm^2 = 0.155 in^2 1 mm^2 = 1,000,000 um^2 | ||
Metric Unit | = English Unit | |
centimeters squared | inches squared | |
meters squared | yards squared | |
kilometers squared | miles squared | |
1 A = 4,840 yd^2 = 43,560 ft^2 = 4,407 m^2 = 0.405 ha 1 yd^2 = 9 ft^2 = 1296 in^2 = 8,361 cm^2 = 0.836 m^2 1 ft^2 = 144 in^2 = 929 cm^2 1 in^2 = 6.452 cm^2 | ||
English Unit | = Metric Unit | |
inches squared | centimeters squared | |
feet squared | meters squared | |
yards squared | meters squared | |
acres (A) | hectares (ha) | |
miles squared | kilometers squared |
Units of Temperature
273.15 K = 0 C = 32 F = freezing point of water/ melting point of ice 373.15 K = 100 C = 212 F = boiling point of water | |
Units of Pressure - On-Line Unit Converter
Units of Humidity
Units of Concentration
Concentration usually refers to a mass/volume relationship.
= grams solute / 100 ml solvent; To convert to molar concentration multiply grams by 10, then divide by the formula weight (FW) of the solute. | |
| |
Salinity is usually expressed as 'parts per thousand' = ppt. |
Units of pH
Windocd 1 6 Cm Meter
In contrast to other units, report pH with the unit before the number: e.g., pH 8.2.When reporting a series of pH values, report the unit only at the beginning: e.g., ..buffered to pH 3, 5, 7, and 9..
Units of Time
The most frequent units time used in the biological sciences are:
Years | yr |
Days | d |
Hours | h |
Minutes | min |
Seconds | sec or s |
Milliseconds | msec |
Windocd 1 6 Cm 1
Modified 3-26-08
Department of Biology, Bates College, Lewiston, ME 04240