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 new limit of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer was set by the European Union to help meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement aimed at limiting the global rise in temperature. David Mchugh, USA TODAY, "Volkswagen accelerates electric cars forecast, predicts it will produce 1 million per year by 2023," 28 Dec. 2019 Sathi Devi, the government scientist in charge of monitoring the storm, said Vayu would come closest to land at midafternoon, stirring up winds of up to 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour before turning sharply westward into open water. Fox News, "Cyclone batters fishing hub but veers away from Indian coast," 13 June 2019 Different areas of the ionosphere get excited as the sphere makes its way through, ultimately causing UV emissions to extend over an area of up to 800 kilometers. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Data from the International Space Station confirms: Lightning is insane," 10 Dec. 2019 Geomagnetic North has been traveling at breakneck speeds in recent years, sometimes reaching speeds of up to 55 kilometers per year. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "For the First Time in 360 Years, True and Magnetic North Will Align in the U.K.," 30 Aug. 2019 The men’s marathon race had an unexpectedly dramatic finish, in which an imposter ran onto the tracks in the last kilometer to distract Frank Shorter, the American frontrunner. Natt Garun, The Verge, "The future of fitness is together but alone," 18 July 2019 Smaller apartment buildings could be built within a quarter-mile (half-kilometer) of bus stops on a frequent bus line or a census tract that officials say has lots of available jobs. Time, "High-Profile Housing Crisis Bill Fails to Pass California Senate," 31 Jan. 2020 The missiles can be fitted with high explosive and armor piercing warheads, and has a top speed of 2000-2500 kilometers (1,242 to 1,553 miles) an hour. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Did Ukraine Really Create a Missile That Can’t Be Shot Down?," 13 Nov. 2019 The strength test is standard for those who sign up to be in the Marine Corps and includes pullups, two minutes of crunches and a 1 ½ mile (2.4 kilometer) run., "Marine Corps enlistee dies after strength test in Maryland," 29 Aug. 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

16 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Kilometer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Mar. 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

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