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What Are Millimeters?

By Lee Johnson
Updated May 21, 2024
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Millimeters are units of measurement in the metric system, which are used to measure small distances. The equivalent of 1 millimeter is 0.03937 inches. In the metric system, 10 millimeters is equivalent to one centimeter, and 100 centimeters is equivalent to one meter. These measurements each have their own symbols commonly used to denote them; millimeters are commonly marked “mm.” Centimeters are usually marked by “cm” and meters are marked by “m.”

The metric system is an alternative to imperial measurements and is currently used in Britain, Canada, Australia, Japan, and most countries. A meter is the primary distance that is used to determine the value of other measurements within the metric system. A meter is equivalent to 39.37 inches. It can be split up to find the value of other metric measurements. Splitting a meter into 100 equal pieces gives the measurement for a centimeter, which is 0.3937 inches in length. If a meter is split into one thousand pieces, the pieces are all millimeters, which is 0.03937 inches.

When compared to imperial measurements, millimeters are arguably more effective for measuring small distances. For example, many adjustments that need to be made on stringed instruments to the height of the strings are measured according to the imperial system in terms of 32nds of an inch. A guitar’s strings should sit 3/32 of an inch above the twelfth fret marker, which is 0.093 expressed as a decimal. Alternatively, it can be expressed in millimeters as 2.3 mm. This is arguably much simpler to express in metric measurements than imperial measurements.

Most measurements have symbols which represent them in measurements. The metric system’s symbols are generally the first letter of the word followed by an “m” for meters. In this way, centimeters are denoted by “cm,” millimeters by “mm,” and meters simply with an “m.” Another measurement related to the meter in the metric system is the kilometer, which is 1000 meters in length and is represented by the letters “km.”

France was the first country to adopt the metric system, in 1795. Many countries from across the world followed suit in the 19th century, including the Netherlands, Brazil, Chile, Spain, Mexico, and Uruguay. In the 20th century, many other countries began using metric measurements, including Russia, China, Poland, Japan, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Jamaica, and Canada. The US is the only industrialized country to refuse to fully adopt the metric system.

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