ki·​lo·​me·​ter kə-ˈlä-mə-tər How to pronounce kilometer (audio)
ˈki-lə-ˌmē-tər How to pronounce kilometer (audio)
: a metric unit of length equal to 1000 meters see Metric System Table
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 disruption followed earlier protests at the port, 60 kilometers (40 miles) north of Ledegem, and around the country which cost tens of millions of euros in transport delays and spoilt goods. Raf Casert, Fortune, 15 Feb. 2024 It is located 45 kilometers southeast of the city of Amalfi and 21 kilometers from Salerno, where many travelers arriving for the coast change from trains onto local buses. Rebecca Ann Hughes, Forbes, 14 Feb. 2024 Based on the route the women described, the journey on foot would have been more than 20 kilometers (at least 12.43 miles). Abeer Salman and Mohammad Al Sawalhi, CNN, 13 Feb. 2024 The house in Conroe, Texas, is more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Lakewood Church, where Sunday's shooting in between busy services sent worshippers scrambling to find safety. TIME, 12 Feb. 2024 Researchers suggest this is because Mimas' ocean dwells 12 to 18 miles (20 to 30 kilometers) below the moon's 15-mile-thick frozen shell. Leah Sarnoff, ABC News, 7 Feb. 2024 The raid put Marion, a town of about 1,900 residents about 150 miles (241 kilometers) southwest of Kansas City, at the center of a national debate over press freedom. John Hanna, Quartz, 6 Feb. 2024 The imagery was taken roughly 100 miles away (161 kilometers) from Howland Island, Romeo said, the next spot where Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan were expected to land following their last takeoff from Lae, Papua New Guinea. Wire Service, The Mercury News, 31 Jan. 2024 So data is coming in from 40 meters down the fiber optic cable and 40 kilometers away, and every little point in between—all day and night. Matt Simon, WIRED, 31 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'kilometer.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French kilomètre, from kilo- + mètre meter

First Known Use

1810, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of kilometer was in 1810

Dictionary Entries Near kilometer

Cite this Entry

“Kilometer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


ki·​lo·​me·​ter kə-ˈläm-ət-ər How to pronounce kilometer (audio) kil-ˈäm- How to pronounce kilometer (audio)
: a metric unit of length equal to 1000 meters see metric system

Medical Definition


variants or chiefly British kilometre
: 1000 meters

More from Merriam-Webster on kilometer

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