meter

1 of 6

noun (1)

me·​ter ˈmē-tər How to pronounce meter (audio)
1
a
: systematically arranged and measured rhythm (see rhythm sense 1) in verse:
(1)
: rhythm that continuously repeats a single basic pattern
iambic meter
(2)
: rhythm characterized by regular recurrence of a systematic arrangement of basic patterns in larger figures
ballad meter
b
: a measure or unit of metrical verse
usually used in combination
pentameter
compare foot sense 4
c
: a fixed metrical pattern : verse form
2
: the basic recurrent rhythmical pattern of note values, accents, and beats per measure in music

meter

2 of 6

noun (2)

met·​er ˈmē-tər How to pronounce meter (audio)
: one that measures
especially : an official measurer of commodities

meter

3 of 6

noun (3)

me·​ter ˈmē-tər How to pronounce meter (audio)
: the base unit of length in the International System of Units that is equal to the distance traveled by light in a vacuum in ¹/₂₉₉,₇₉₂,₄₅₈ second or to about 39.37 inches see Metric System Table

meter

4 of 6

noun (4)

me·​ter ˈmē-tər How to pronounce meter (audio)
1
: an instrument for measuring and sometimes recording the time or amount of something
a parking meter
a gas meter
2
: postage meter
also : a marking printed by a postage meter

meter

5 of 6

verb

me·​ter ˈmē-tər How to pronounce meter (audio)
metered; metering; meters

transitive verb

1
: to measure by means of a meter
2
: to supply in a measured or regulated amount
3
: to print postal indicia on by means of a postage meter

-meter

6 of 6

noun combining form

: instrument or means for measuring
barometer

Word History

Etymology

Noun (1)

Middle English metre, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin metrum, borrowed from Greek métron "measure, space measured, (in plural) proportions, poetic meter," perhaps going back to Indo-European *mh1-tro-, zero-grade derivative of a verbal base *meh1- "measure" — more at measure entry 1

Note: The word meter in the sense "poetic meter" is attested twice in Old English as a borrowing from Latin, but there is no continuity between this use and occurrence in later Middle English.

Noun (2)

Middle English, from meten "to mete entry 1" + -er -er entry 2

Noun (3)

borrowed from French mètre, borrowed from Greek métron "measure" — more at meter entry 1

Noun (4)

probably originally, as short for gas-meter "instrument for measuring the quantity of gas passing through an outlet," to be identified with meter entry 2; later uses appear to be extracted from compounds with -meter, generalized to refer to any measuring device

Verb

derivative of meter entry 4

Noun combining form

borrowed from French & New Latin; French -mètre, borrowed from New Latin -meter, borrowed from Greek -metron (as in hodómetron "instrument for measuring distance, odometer"), from métron "measure, instrument for measuring" — more at meter entry 1

Note: The earliest of such New Latin compounds is perhaps altimeter altimeter.

First Known Use

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun (3)

1797, in the meaning defined above

Noun (4)

1815, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1878, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of meter was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near meter

Cite this Entry

“Meter.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meter. Accessed 4 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

meter 1 of 3

noun

me·​ter ˈmēt-ər How to pronounce meter (audio)
1
: a systematic rhythm in poetry that is usually repeated
2
: the repeated pattern of musical beats in a measure

meter

2 of 3

noun

: the basic unit of length of the metric system equal to about 39.37 inches see metric system

meter

3 of 3

noun

: an instrument for measuring and sometimes recording the amount of something
a gas meter

Medical Definition

meter 1 of 2

noun

me·​ter
variants or chiefly British metre
: the base unit of length in the International System of Units that is equal to the distance traveled in a vacuum by light in 1/299,792,458 second or to about 39.37 inches

meter

2 of 2

noun

: an instrument for measuring and sometimes recording the time or amount of something

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