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Does the World, Except for the US, Use the Metric System?

By David White
Updated May 21, 2024
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The metric system is one of the world's most popular measuring systems. It is used in most countries in the world, with the large exception of the United States. Even in the U.S., however, scientific measurements are expressed in these units.

The official name for this way of measuring things is the System Internationale (SI) or the International System of Units. SI is a decimal system with a base of 10, making it easier for calculations than the American system. Weights are measured in grams, dimensions in meters, and volumes in liters. Prefixes denote how much of something is being described, and with few exceptions, these prefixes come from the Greek language. A kilogram is 1,000 grams, for example, while a milliliter is 0.001 of a liter.

Another common measurement is that of temperature. The metric system uses a Celsius scale to measure temperature, while the English system uses Fahrenheit. Like all other measurements, temperatures are decimalized: the freezing point of water measured in degrees Celsius is 0° (32°F) and the boiling point is 100°C (212°F).

This system of measurement was developed in France in 1791, and it was approved by the French government in 1799. Those were the years of the Napoleonic Wars, and it took a few years because the government had other matters it considered more pressing. The system then gradually spread to other countries, and it nearly became the official measuring system of the U.S. as well. The United States, however, kept its allegiance to the old English measuring system, even when Britain embraced the metric system. Only two other countries in the world, Liberia and Myanmar, still embrace the "English" measuring system.

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Discussion Comments

By anon962318 — On Jul 23, 2014

Here in India, the general public uses a mixture of SI, Metric and Imperial System of Units. For example, peoples heights are expressed in feet and inches, the distances in Km, the ambient temperatures in Fahrenheit, the volumes in liters, etc.

By anon213974 — On Sep 13, 2011

I just need to know why other countries use the SI system and not the customary system.

By anon129288 — On Nov 22, 2010

I live in the US and for the most part, we still use the English Imperial System, but in school, I learned about the metric system as well, so it is not foreign to us, it is just not widely used yet. Once I went to Canada and it was fun watching the weather in the metric system because they were talking about this heat wave with temps in the 30s.

By anon66293 — On Feb 18, 2010

America actually officially adopted the metric system in 1893 and since then all American Customary units have been defined by their relationship to metric units. They are just a bit slow on the uptake so they haven't all learned to use it yet.

By anon63663 — On Feb 02, 2010

The SI system and the metric system are not the same. For example, metric uses the liter to measure volume of liquid and SI uses cubic meter. Also, metric measures temp using Celsius, but SI uses Kelvin. Metric measures energy via calories, but SI uses Joules.

By anon56972 — On Dec 18, 2009

I'm English and here we use the metric system except for miles which are still used on the roads. Also people use feet and inches when referring to people's height, although younger people don't have much of an idea of what a foot is.

Some older people use Fahrenheit when the weather gets really hot (it sounds hot when you say it's 100 degrees) but I'm 52 and only understand celsius.

By anon45116 — On Sep 13, 2009

i actually think that if you are born with SI system then you are better with it than American system, or it could be the opposite. Both aren't easy, both aren't hard, just depends which you are more comfortable with.

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