ki·​lo·​me·​ter | \ kə-ˈlä-mə-tər How to pronounce kilometer (audio) , ki-; ˈki-lə-ˌmē-tər How to pronounce kilometer (audio) \

Definition of kilometer

: a metric unit of length equal to 1000 meters — see Metric System Table

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How do you pronounce kilometer?: Usage Guide

In North American speech kilometer is most often pronounced with primary stress on the second syllable. This pronunciation is also heard frequently in British speech. Those who object to second syllable stress say that the first syllable should be stressed in accord with the stress patterns of centimeter, millimeter, etc. However, the pronunciation of kilometer does not parallel that of other metric compounds. From 1828 to 1841 Noah Webster indicated only second syllable stress, and his successor added a first syllable stress variant in the first Merriam-Webster dictionary of 1847. Thus, both pronunciations are venerable. Most scientists use second syllable stress, although first syllable stress seems to occur with a higher rate of frequency among scientists than among nonscientists.

Did You Know?

A kilometer is equal to about 62/100 of a mile, and a mile is equal to about 1.61 kilometers. The U.S. has been slow to adopt metric measures, which are used almost everywhere else in the world. Though our car speedometers are often marked in both miles and kilometers, the U.S. and Great Britain are practically the only developed nations that still show miles rather than kilometers on their road signs. But even in the U.S., footraces are usually measured in meters or kilometers, like the Olympic races. Runners normally abbreviate kilometer to K: "a 5K race" (3.1 miles), "the 10K run" (6.2 miles), and so on.

Examples of kilometer in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The end of the Guadalupian epoch is marked by the Emeishan Traps in southwestern China, which are a monument to a flood of lava that erupted in the ocean 260 million years ago and oozed over a million square kilometers. National Geographic, "Earth has had more major mass extinctions than we realized," 18 Dec. 2019 As many as 1,000 tree species can be found in one square kilometer, roughly the same number of species as can be found in the entire United States. Smithsonian, "Is the Amazon on a Road to Ruin?," 17 Dec. 2019 In the southern Xinjiang city of Kashgar, The New York Times tallied a dense network of 37 phone trackers installed permanently in a single, square-kilometer neighborhood. Paul Mozur, New York Times, "A Surveillance Net Blankets China’s Cities, Giving Police Vast Powers," 17 Dec. 2019 Amsterdam is known as the bicycle capital of the world because of its cyclist-friendly culture and infrastructure, including more than 500 kilometers of cycle paths and lanes. Annabelle Timsit, Quartz, "“Bicycles could save the world”: Meet Amsterdam’s bicycle mayor," 10 Dec. 2019 The race was in the final kilometer of the eighth stage when the camera captured the plants, which were set up on two plots. Khadrice Rollins,, "Helicopter Camera Following Cycling Race Uncovers Rooftop Marijuana Farm," 4 Sep. 2019 Much of the bedrock beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is actually below sea level, though it's buried below kilometers of solid ice. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "Running the numbers on an insane scheme to save Antarctic ice," 20 July 2019 With some firefronts stretching more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) and temperatures reaching as high as 43 Celsius (109 Fahrenheit), Crisp said the danger will remain high into the evening. NBC News, "Mass evacuation as 'columns of fire' threaten Australian vacation area," 29 Dec. 2019 The plane took off at 4:55 p.m. from the southern city of Punta Arenas, which is more than 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) from the capital of Santiago. USA TODAY, "Chile military plane en route to Antarctica goes missing with 38 people aboard, officials say," 10 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'kilometer.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of kilometer

1810, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for kilometer

French kilomètre, from kilo- + mètre meter

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Time Traveler for kilometer

Time Traveler

The first known use of kilometer was in 1810

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Statistics for kilometer

Last Updated

20 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Kilometer.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 28 January 2020.

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More Definitions for kilometer


How to pronounce kilometer (audio) How to pronounce kilometer (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of kilometer

: a unit of length equal to 1,000 meters


ki·​lo·​me·​ter | \ ki-ˈlä-mə-tər How to pronounce kilometer (audio) , ˈki-lə-ˌmē-tər \

Kids Definition of kilometer

: a metric unit of length equal to 1000 meters


variants: or chiefly British kilometre \ ˈkil-​ə-​ˌmēt-​ər How to pronounce kilometre (audio) , kə-​ˈläm-​ət-​ər How to pronounce kilometre (audio) \

Medical Definition of kilometer

: 1000 meters

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More from Merriam-Webster on kilometer

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with kilometer

Spanish Central: Translation of kilometer

Nglish: Translation of kilometer for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of kilometer for Arabic Speakers

Comments on kilometer

What made you want to look up kilometer? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


showing steady, earnest care and effort

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