Unit Conversion

What is Centimeter – Definition & Conversion


To measure the length of the very small objects centimeter is a very suitable unit. Thus, the centimeter with abbreviation as cm is a unit of displacement or distance or length in the CGS system.

Further, this system is termed as a centimeter/gram/second system of units. The cm is equivalent to 0.01 meter. Also, there are about 2.54 cms in one linear inch. In this topic, the student will learn about a centimeter and its conversions.

What is Centimeter?

In the standard metric system, power-of-10 prefix multipliers facilitate the derivation of other. Often more convenient, distance units from the centimeter.

Similarly, 1 cm is the distance a ray of electromagnetic (EM) energy travels through a vacuum in a time period of 3.33564095 x 10-11 second.

Moreover, the centimeter and its kin are also used to specify the wavelengths of electromagnetic fields. Especially at ultra-high and microwave radio frequencies.

Thus, such radio spectrum occupies an informally defined range of wavelengths. From roughly 1 mm to several tens of kilometers.

The speed of EM-field propagation in a vacuum is 2.99792458 x 1010 cms per second. Moreover, one simple way to measure the centimeter is by using everyday objects. Make sure they are close to 1 cm in size.

For instance, a pencil, pen or highlighter. It is also possible to measure out the distance in imperial units and further convert it to centimeters.


Centimeter Definition

A centimeter is a unit of length in the metric system which is equal to one-hundredth of a meter.

1cm is equivalent to 0.39370 inches.

History of Centimeter

The metric system of weights and measures was defined and adopted in France in 1795. Using the meter as the basis for length measurements, the system is now in use officially across the world.

John Wilkins was the first person to publicly recognize the need for universal length measurement. So that such a measurement could be carried out locally. In order to avoid having to have a definition that referred to a stored reference unit.

Thus, he proposed using the length of a “second’s pendulum” which made half an oscillation per second. But later it was found that there is a slight difference in this length around the world.

Therefore the Academy of Sciences devised a new measure, 1/10000000 of the distance from the Equator to the North Pole.

This new value was of use in creating a metal bar that is presently at the BIPM’s headquarters. It has the name of “international prototype meter”. Further, this standard got replaced and now defines the meter as “1,650763.73 wavelengths of the orange-red emission line of a krypton-86 atom in a vacuum”.

Most recently, in 1983, the meter’s definition is “the distance travelled by light in a vacuum in 1/299792458 of a second”. From this, we derive the centimeter as the distance travelled by light in a vacuum in 1/2997924580 of a second.

Some Popular References for Centimeter

  1. A United States nickel (5 cents) coin is of approx. 2cm diameter.
  2. The cornea of a human eye is of approx. 1.15cm diameter.
  3. One imperial foot is equal to approx. 30.5cm.
  4. 30 cm nearly equals 1 foot (in effect, 11.81 inches)

Conversions Of Centimeter

One inch equals 2.54 centimeters, but this value is not constant, so we need a special conversion factor. To get a centimeter measurement from inches, divide the number of inches by 0.39370.

Also, to obtain a centimeter measurement from feet, divide the original measurement by 0.032808. And, to get centimeters from yards, divide the original measurement by 0.010936.

Also, 1 cm = 10 mm (millimeters)

  • 1 micrometer i.e. \(\mu\)m or \(\mu\) = 0.0001 (10-4) cm.
  • 1 nanometer (nm) = 10-7 cm.
  • 100 cm = 1 m (meter)
  • 1 Angstr\(\ddot{o}\) m unit (\(\ddot{A}\)) = 10-8 cm
  • 1 kilometer (km) = 100,000 (105) cm

Solved Question for you

Q: Convert the following measurements into meter.

  1. 280 cm
  2. 56100 mm
  3. 3.7 km

Ans: (a) \(\frac{280 cm}{100}\) =  2.8 m

(b) \(\frac{56100 mm}{1000}\) = 56.1 m

(c) 3.7 km x 1000 = 3700 m

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