Have you ever asked yourself which word is correct, “Meter” or “Metre”? It’s confusing because people use both forms.
Also, do these words share similar spellings, but likely different meanings? We want to find out what’s correct in the US and the UK, and how to properly use those words.
Simply put, in the UK, a “Meter” is a device that measures the amounts of something to be used, while a “Metre” is a measurement equal to 100 centimeters – two very different words! In the US, the same word is used interchangeably for both meanings, and it’s always “Meter”.
Take a look at the examples below:
- Rob won the 100 meters race yesterday. (US)
- He won the 100 metres race yesterday. (UK)
- Do you know how many kilometers to the gas station? (US)
- Do you know how many kilometres to the gas station? (UK)
- The water meter is still running, showing there’s a leak.
- We need to buy a new meter, but all the ones I found are too expensive.
The first two sets of examples show us what those sentences would look like in the US and the UK. The word “Metre”, as well as all its variables, such as “Kilometre”, are common in the UK – while in the US they use “Meter”.
In that context, the sentences are the same, except for the fact that one uses “Meters” and the other, “Metres”. You must keep those differences in mind, so you know which word to apply when addressing an American or British audience.
When it comes to the measurement device, both countries use “Meter”, as you can see in the last two sentences.
In the Cambridge Dictionary, we find definitions for “Meter” that match the ones above for the word used in the US. It clearly refers both to the measurement device and the measurement equal to 100 centimeters.
When we look for the word “Metre”, The Cambridge Dictionary indicates that this is the UK spelling for the word “Meter”.
Considering that in the UK “Metre” and “Meter” are different words, with different meanings, we wonder which form would be more common amongst British English speakers. We’d say that both will appear distinctively in the graph, as a common word would. But we still want to know which is preferred.
With that in mind, which one of those forms is used more often in the UK, “Metre” or “Meter”? Take a look at the graph from Google Ngram Viewer below, to find out.
In the UK, it’s interesting to notice that both words are used just the same – which confirms the idea that both are valid words, with distinct meanings and usage.
Over time the preference has changed, and we can see that initially, “Meter” was used much more often, until it started to trend down and swapped places with “Metre”, a little after 1985. Since around 2015 those words are sharing the top stop.
You should keep that in mind when addressing a British English-speaking audience. But also, we can help but think: what will the American graph show, when comparing these two words?
In the US, “Meter” is the common word for both meanings, while “Metre” isn’t used as much. We think the graph will reflect that when we look into how American English speakers use those two words.
In your daily life, which is the form you use more frequently?
In the US, which one of those words is used more often, “Metre” or “Meter”? Let’s find out by taking a look at the graph from Google Ngram Viewer below.
The US graph shows that, amongst American English speakers, the word “Meter” is much more common. That doesn’t surprise us, because in this country the word “Meter” is used for both meanings, and “Metre” isn’t spoken so commonly.
However, we can’t help but notice that “Metre” still pops up on the graph. It’s used in some places, even if less frequently than “Meter”.
“Metre” is the word used in Canada for measurement purposes. Keep in mind that, in Canada, the official languages are both English and French, and “Metre” is the correct form in both. Also, as a member of the Common Wealth, Canada follows the same trends as the UK.
Australia is a member of the Common Wealth and tends to follow in the same steps as Great Britain, in regards to language. With that in mind, “Metre” is the most common form, considered correct, in Australia, to address measurement issues. You should use it, when in this country.
When looking at the whole English-speaking world, what would we see? Considering the multiple influences from different places, we’d believe that a divide between “Metre” and “Meter” would be seen.
Knowing that, which one of those forms is used more often in other countries, “Metre” or “Meter”? Take a look at the graph from Google Ngram Viewer below, to find out.
Looking at the graph, we can see that “Meter” is used a bit more frequently, but not as much as in other graphs. “Meter” is a word that is consistently used and that has maintained its relevance over the years.
Keep in mind that this graph takes into consideration places like India and South Africa, among others. It’s a very significant group of English-speaking people and an important picture of which words they prefer to use.
In the UK, a “Meter” is a device that’s used to measure the quantity of something, and a “Metre” is a measurement that’s equal to 100 centimeters. It’s two different words, with two different meanings. In the US, “Meter” is the word used to indicate both things.