weigh scale with measuring tape

Units Of Measurement Used In Different Countries

Last updated on September 22nd, 2023 at 05:43 pm

If you live in the United States, you probably know that Americans use a different measuring system than, for example, people in England or the rest of Europe.

It makes sense to think that countries around the world also use other measuring systems.

However, there are only two main measuring systems used throughout the world, and only one country uses entirely different units of measurement.

marking a line on wall with measuring tape

The Metric System

The metric system is the standard system for almost every country in the world except for the United States, Liberia, and Myanmar.

Many countries prefer to use the metric system because it makes it much easier to communicate the weights and sizes of items that are bought and sold overseas or across borders.

This is especially true for items such as medicine and food.

Another reason why the metric system is so popular is that it is based on increments of 10.

This makes it very simple to convert between smaller and larger units of measurement within the system, and it also makes it easy to convert between weight, volume, and length.

Units in the metric system include grams and kilograms for weight, liters, milliliters for volume, and millimeters, centimeters, meters, and kilometers for distance or length.

tall glass of milk showing milliliters

There are also several smaller and larger gram, liter, and meter measurements for measuring variously sized objects or spaces, but they are less commonly used.

Even in the three countries that don’t use the metric system as their standard units of measurement, you will probably find that the metric system is used for things like medicine and food production.

Most scientists only use the metric system, regardless of what country they are working in.

kettleballs with weights in kilograms

The Imperial System and United States Customary System

Before the metric system was adopted in the British Empire, a system of measurement called the imperial system was frequently used.

This system used measurements such as the inch, foot, yard, and mile for distance. It also used the ounce and pound for weight and the fluid ounce, cup, quart, pint, and gallon for measuring volume.

mile 328 road sign

Teaspoons and tablespoons are also part of the traditional imperial system.

Although Britain has fully adopted the metric system, you may still encounter people using parts of the imperial system.

This is especially true in food preparation, as people often use tablespoons and teaspoons to measure small amounts of ingredients but will use milliliters and grams to measure larger amounts of ingredients.

The imperial ton is also still sometimes used to refer to very large weights.

In Britain and sometimes the rest of Europe, you might also encounter people who use a stone unit of measurement to refer to weight. A stone is equal to 14 pounds.

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This measurement is almost never used in the United States and represents one of the key differences between the imperial system and the United States’ customary system.

Many parts of the imperial and United States customary systems are the same, especially for smaller units of measurement.

For weight measurements over the pound unit, however, there are some differences. The imperial hundredweight and ton are heavier than the U.S. hundredweight and ton, which are sometimes referred to as short tons.

An imperial hundredweight is 112 pounds to the U.S.’s 100 pounds, and while a U.S. ton is 2,000 pounds, an imperial ton is 2,240 pounds.

U.S. fluid ounces are 1.2 milliliters larger than an imperial ounce. However, an imperial pint is made up of 20 fluid ounces to the U.S. customary system’s pint of 16 fluid ounces, so an imperial pint is larger.

Imperial quarts and gallons are also larger.

The United States customary system is also widely used in Liberia.

metal measuring cups

Burmese Units of Measurement

In Myanmar, which was formerly Burma, Burmese units of measurement are still frequently used. These units include the muyaw, lan, and kawtha for measuring length or distance, the kyattha, aseittha, and ngase tha for measuring weight, and the hkwet, seit, and hkwe for measuring volume.

The Myanmar government also uses both the United States’ customary and metric systems.

The government announced plans to change over entirely to the metric system in 2013, but this switch has not been fully integrated into the country’s infrastructure.

Troy Weights

The troy unit of measurement was an English unit of measurement of weight that was commonly used from the 15th century onward.

Although this measurement isn’t used for measuring generic weights anymore in any country, it is used around the world to measure precious metals.

If you purchase gold, silver, platinum, or any other valuable metal, you will often find that it is measured in troy ounces or troy pounds.

The troy system also uses the grain and pennyweight units for small weight measurements.

gold bars on display

Non-Standard Units of Measurement

In both Britain and the United States, units of measurement that are not part of any system are often used to describe sizes.

For example, in the United States, many people use an American football field to describe or compare to a certain area or distance size, or length.

Because a football field is a standard size and most people can picture it, this actually gives an accurate measurement estimate.

Instead of a football field, people from the United Kingdom often use a soccer pitch to compare to or describe an area’s size.

Unlike American football fields, though, a soccer pitch does not have a uniform size, so this measurement is less accurate.

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