A centiliter is a unit of measurement used to describe volume or capacity. It is a metric system measurement, as opposed to the Imperial system commonly used in the United States and, to a lesser extent, in the United Kingdom. In comparison to Imperial measurements, the centiliter is approximately equivalent to 0.338 ounces or 0.6102 cubic inches.
The metric system is based on a simple rule of multiples of ten. The centiliter, for example, is equivalent to 10 milliliters. Rather than 10 milliliters, however, the centiliter is most often described as 1/100th of a liter. Most countries, and the scientific community, use the metric system because it is regarded as simpler than the Imperial system, which does not have a simple multiple of ten rule and cannot be converted as easily without the use of a calculator. Other examples of metric units of volume or capacity include the kiloliter, which is 1,000 liters (roughly 264.2 gallons), and the deciliter, which is 1/10th of a liter (roughly two pints).
Since the centiliter is a relatively small unit of measurement, it is not often used to describe large volumes. It is more likely to be found, for example, in a cooking recipe than it would be in the description of a car's fuel tank capacity or the packaging on a beverage. Even when larger units are used for measurements such as these, the metric system only requires simple math to convert the larger unit into centiliters. Take, for example, a 2 liter bottle of a soft drink. Since 1 liter consists of 100 centiliters, the soft drink bottle would simply contain 200 centiliters.
It can be somewhat difficult for individuals who work with both the Imperial system and the metric system on a daily basis to switch back and forth without making mistakes. A scientist, for example, might spend all day at work using metric units and then come home and mess up a recipe because he or she forgot to use Imperial ounces and instead used a metric unit. More serious mistakes can happen on larger scales. Mistaking 200 miles for 200 kilometers on a road trip, for instance, will make a huge difference and will result in the road trip ending at a completely wrong location, about 75 miles short of the true destination.