Metric Volume

These are the two most common measurements:

  • Milliliters
  • Liters


MilliliterA milliliter (that is "milli" and "liter" put together) is a very small amount of liquid.

Here is a milliliter of milk in a teaspoon.

It doesn't even fill the teaspoon!


If you collect about 20 drops of water, you will have 1 milliliter:
20 drops of water droplets makes about 1 milliliter
And a teaspoon can hold about five milliliters:
1 teaspoon of liquid Teaspoonful is about 5 milliliters

Milliliters are often written as ml (for short), so "100 ml" means "100 milliliters".

Here we have 150 ml of milk in a measuring cup.

It doesn't say "150" ... it says "50" ... but it is half-way between 100 and 200 so you can figure out it is 150 ml.



liter water


liter is just a bunch of milliliters put all together. In fact, 1000 milliliters makes up 1 liter:

1 liter = 1.000 milliliters

This jug has exactly 1 liter of water in it.

Liters are often written as L (for short), so "3 L" means "3 Liters" (some people use lowercase l, but that looks too much like 1).

Milk, soda and other drinks are often sold in liters.


A cube that is 0,1 meters (10 cm or 100 mm) 
on each side contains 1 liter,


and a square meter that is 1 millimeter thick also contains 1 liter.

The next time you are at the store take a minute and look on the labels to see how many liters (or milliliters) are in each container!

Other Volume Measurements

You may come across these other volume measurements:

Cubic Meter (m3)

Volume is length by length by length, so the basic unit of volume is a cube that is 1 meter on each side.

The Unit is written m3 (cubic meters).

So, a cube that is 1 meter on each side is a cubic meter (m3) ...


... and that is also equal to 1.000 liters.

1 m3 = 1.000 Liters

Megaliters (ML)

Megaliter is a million liters (1.000.000 L). Useful for measuring large quantities of water, such as in lakes and dams.


Cubic Centimeter (cc)

A Cubic Centimeter (abbreviated cc or cm3) is a cube that is 1 centimeter on each side.

It equals 1 mL (one-thousandth of a liter), and one-millionth of a cubic meter. Or to put it another way:

1 m3 = 1.000 L = 1.000.000 cm3
(one cubic meter = a thousand liters = a million cubic centimeters)

Cubic Millimeter

A Cubic Millimeter is a cube that is 1 millimeter on each side.

It is one-millionth of a liter, and one-billionth of a cubic meter.

It is very small, and we need 1.000 Cubic Millimeters to make just one milliliter.

More Examples

A liter (L) is:

  • a bit more than a quart (US measure)
  • about the quantity in a sports drink bottle
  • close to the volume of a kilogram of water

A cubic centimeter is about:

  • the size of a grape

A cube that is 1mm on each side is a cubic millimeter

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Maths & Science

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Science Activities