There are two official symbols, the Latin letter el in both cases: l and L. The litre is not an SI unit but is accepted for use with the SI. The SI unit of volume is the cubic metre (m³).
Definitions and equivalents
A litre is defined as a special name for a cubic decimetre (1 L = 1 dm³).
- 1 L = 1000 cm³ (exactly)
- 1000 L = 1 m³ (exactly)
SI prefixes applied to the litre
The litre may be used with some SI prefixes.
Other common metric equivalencies
- 1 µL (microlitre) = 1 mm³ (cubic millimetre)
- 1 mL (millilitre) = 1 cm³ (cubic centimetre)
- ≈ 0.87987699 Imperial quart
- Inverse: One Imperial quart ≡ 1.1365225 litres
- ≈ 1.056688 US fluid quarts
- Inverse: One US fluid quart ≡ 0.946352946 litres
- ≈ 0.0353146667 cubic foot
- Inverse: One cubic foot ≡ 28.316846592 litres
Litres are most commonly used for items measured by the capacity or size of their container (such as fluids and berries), whereas cubic metres (and derived units) are most commonly used for items measured either by their dimensions or their displacements. The litre is often also used in some calculated measurements, such as density (kg/L), allowing an easy comparison with the density of water.
One litre of water has a mass of almost exactly one kilogram. Similarly: 1 mL of water has about 1 g of mass; 1000 litres of water has about 1000 kg (1 tonne) of mass. This relationship is due to the history of the unit, but since 1964 it has not been part of the definition.
Originally, the only symbol for the litre was l (lowercase letter l), following the SI convention that only those unit symbols that abbreviate the name of a person start with a capital letter.
See also 
- Cubic metre
- BIPM's "SI Brochure"
- BIPM's "(Table 6 -) Non-SI units accepted for use with the International System"
- NIST note on SI units
- NIST recommends uppercase letter L
- UK National physical laboratory's "Internationally recognised non SI units" page
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