1 of 6

noun (1)

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


2 of 6

noun (2)

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


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


4 of 6

noun (4)

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


5 of 6


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

transitive verb

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


6 of 6

noun combining form

: instrument or means for measuring

Did you know?

Meter is a metric measurement slightly longer than a yard; thus, a 100-meter dash might take you a second longer than a 100-yard dash. But the word has a different sense in music, where people aren't separated by whether they use the metric system. For a musician, the meter is the regular background rhythm, expressed by the "time signature" written at the beginning of a piece or section: 2/2, 2/4, 3/8, 4/4, 6/8, etc. Within a meter, you can create rhythms that range from the simple to the complex. So, for example, "America the Beautiful" is in 4/4 meter (or "4/4 time"), but so are most of the rhythmically complex songs written by Paul Simon, Burt Bacharach, or Stevie Wonder. In ordinary conversation, though, most people use "rhythm" to include meter and everything that's built on top of it. In poetry, meter has much the same meaning; however, poetic meters aren't named with numbers but instead with traditional Greek and Latin terms such as iambic and dactylic.

Examples of meter in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Electricians are brought in to bypass the electricity meters, so growers can tap a free source of power to run grow lights and fans. Stuart Leavenworth, Sacramento Bee, 21 Feb. 2024 In both solar PVs and TPV systems, the photovoltaic cell generates a power density (in watts per square meter, for instance) that translates to a total power generated by the photovoltaic system. IEEE Spectrum, 21 Feb. 2024 It was sunk in 2017 to be a dive site and is 25 meters from another wreck called the Taurus. Alan Taylor, The Atlantic, 20 Feb. 2024 The one-shoulder asymmetric bustier gown, featuring a statement cloud sleeve and padded band around the bottom edge, took more than 450 hours and 20 meters of fabric to create. Alice Newbold, Vogue, 18 Feb. 2024 In most of the northern hemisphere, these pollutants could be reducing the distances at which insects are able to locate flowers by 75% or more–from more than five kilometers in the pre-industrial age to fewer than 400 meters in the present. Popular Science, 8 Feb. 2024 Elsewhere, the floor slopes up and down, the depth varying between some 15 and 25 meters (50 and 80 feet) below the surface, according to the IDF, which said the section of the tunnels visited by CNN ran for about one kilometer (about 1,100 yards). Ivana Kottasová, CNN, 7 Feb. 2024 Here, then 50 meters ahead, another checkpoint, then another checkpoint. Eric Adler, Kansas City Star, 7 Feb. 2024 Industry groups and Republican officials said before the rule-making that a limit of 9 micrograms per cubic meter could sharply increase the number of U.S. counties in violation of the soot standard. Matthew Daly, Quartz, 7 Feb. 2024
Around downtown San Jose, there are a number of areas with marked and often metered parking within 20 feet of a crosswalk. John Woolfolk, The Mercury News, 6 Feb. 2024 This kind of tracking and analytics of police officers’ exact movements could allow the app to do something other predictive policing tools have not: meter out where patrol assignments occur to reduce instances of over-policing. WIRED, 27 Sep. 2023 As a consequence, the lawsuit alleges, the DWP underestimated outdoor water use, overcharging customers whose outdoor use wasn’t metered separately. Jon Healey, Los Angeles Times, 9 Aug. 2023 In May the regulatory body issued its first power consumption notice, asking Texas residents to meter their energy usage and avoid using large machinery such as washing machines during prime windows over the course of a particularly hot weekend. Dan Carson, Chron, 8 June 2022 All taxis are metered at set rates established by the government. Skye Sherman, Travel + Leisure, 7 Apr. 2023 Free parking is available in the Tower 155 Garage and metered parking on the street. Phillip Valys, Sun Sentinel, 31 Mar. 2023 According to its website, the water utility directly serves 125,000 residential, commercial, industrial, and master-metered customers in Pulaski, Saline and Grant counties. Daniel McFadin, Arkansas Online, 12 Mar. 2023 The other spaces on Summer Street are metered and limited to two hours. Sean P. Murphy,, 6 Mar. 2023 See More

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

Word History


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


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


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.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 3 noun
me·​ter ˈmēt-ər How to pronounce meter (audio)
: a systematic rhythm in poetry that is usually repeated
: the repeated pattern of musical beats in a measure


2 of 3 noun
: the basic unit of length of the metric system equal to about 39.37 inches see metric system


3 of 3 noun
: an instrument for measuring and sometimes recording the amount of something
a gas meter

Medical Definition


1 of 2 noun
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


2 of 2 noun
: an instrument for measuring and sometimes recording the time or amount of something

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