Metric Measurements in Spanish

British units usually aren't used in Spanish-speaking areas

Speedometer
In Spanish-speaking areas other than Puerto Rico, vehicle speed is measured in kilometers per hour.

Nathan / Creative Commons.

You may speak Spanish well, but if you're talking to typical Spaniards or Latin Americans using inches, cups, miles, and gallons, chances are they won't understand you well even if they know words such as pulgadas and millas.

With a few exceptions—among ​them, Spanish speakers inside the United States—Spanish speakers throughout the world use the metric system of measurements in everyday life. Although local or indigenous measurements are in use in some places, and American/British measurements are occasionally used for some specific instances (gasoline is sold by the gallon in some parts of Latin America, for example), the metric system is universally understood in the Spanish-speaking world. The metric system has widespread usage even in Puerto Rico, even though it is a U.S. territory.

British Measurements and Their Metric Equivalents in Spanish

Here are the most common British measurements and their metric equivalents in Spanish and English:

Length (Longitud)

  • 1 centimeter (centímetro) = 0.3937 inches (pulgadas)
  • 1 inch (pulgada) = 2.54 centimeters (centímetros)
  • 1 foot (pie) = 30.48 centimeters (centímetros)
  • 1 foot (pie) = 0.3048 meters (metros)
  • 1 yard (yarda) = 0.9144 meters (metros)
  • 1 meter (metro) = 1.093613 yards (yardas)
  • 1 kilometer (kilómetro) = 0.621 miles (millas)
  • 1 mile (milla) = 1.609344 kilometers (kilómetros)

Weight (Peso)

  • 1 gram (gramo) = 0.353 ounces (onzas)
  • 1 ounce (onza) = 28.35 grams (gramos)
  • 1 pound (libra) = 453.6 grams (gramos)
  • 1 pound (libra) = 0.4563 kilograms (kilogramos)
  • 1 kilogram (kilogramo) = 2.2046 pounds (libras)
  • 1 American ton (tonelada americana) = 0.907 metric tons (toneladas métricas)
  • 1 metric ton (tonelada métrica) = 1.1 metric tons (toneladas métricas)

Volume/capacity (volumen/capacidad)

  • 1 milliliter (mililitro) = 0.034 fluid ounces (onzas fluidas)
  • 1 milliliter (mililitro) = 0.2 teaspoons (cucharaditas)
  • 1 fluid ounce (onza fluida) = 29.6 milliliters (mililitros)
  • 1 teaspoon (cucharadita) = 5 milliliters (mililitros)
  • 1 cup (taza) = 0.24 liters (litros)
  • 1 quart (cuarto) = 0.95 liters (litros)
  • 1 liter (litro) = 4.227 cups (tazas)
  • 1 liter (litro) = 1.057 quarts (cuartos)
  • 1 liter (litro) = 0.264 U.S. gallons (galones americanos)
  • 1 U.S. gallon (galón americano) = 3.785 liters (litros)

Area (superficie)

  • 1 square centimeter (centímetro cuadrado) = 0.155 square inches (pulgadas cuadradas)
  • 1 square inch (pulgada cuadrada) = 6.4516 square centimeters (centímetros cuadrados)
  • 1 square foot (pie cuadrado) = 929 square centimeters (centímetros cuadrados)
  • 1 acre (acre) = 0.405 hectares (hectáreas)
  • 1 hectare (hectárea) = 2.471 acres (acres)
  • 1 square kilometer (kilómetro cuadrado) = 0.386 square miles (millas cuadradas)
  • 1 square mile (milla cuadrada) = 2.59 square kilometers (kilómetros cuadrados)

Of course, mathematical accuracy isn't always necessary. For example, if you remember that a kilogram is a bit more than 2 pounds and a liter is a bit more than a quart, that's close enough for many purposes. And if you're driving, remember that a speed-limit sign that says 100 kilómetros por hora means you shouldn't be driving more than 62 miles per hour.

Sample Spanish Sentences Involving Measurements

¿Realmente necesitamos 2 litros de agua al día? (Do we really need 2 liters of water per day?)

El hombre más grande del mundo tenía 2 metros 29 de estatura y un peso de 201 kilogramos. (The tallest man in the world had a height of 2.29 meters and a weight of 201 kilograms.)

El territorio mexicano abarca una superficie de 1.960.189 kilómetros cuadrados sin contar sus islas o mares. (The Mexican territory covers an area of 1,960,189 square kilometers not counting its islands or seas.)

La velocidad de la luz en el vacío es una constante universal con el valor 299.792.458 metros por segundo. (The speed of light in a vacuum is a universal constant with a value of 299,792,458 meters per second.)

Los hoteles de esta zona deben tener la habitación doble de 12 metros cuadrados mínimo. (Hotels in this zone should have double rooms of at least 12 square meters in area.)

La diferencia de 10 centímetros no se percibe ni importa. (The difference of 10 centimeters is neither noticeable nor important.)

Hay casi 13,000 kilómetros entre Londres y Johannesburgo. (There are almost 13,000 kilometers between London and Johannesburg.)

Key Takeaways

  • All Spanish-speaking countries use the metric system, although British and indigenous measurements sometimes have specialized uses.
  • Outside the United States, most native Spanish speakers are unfamiliar with everyday British measures even if they understand what the words mean.
  • The Spanish words for metric units are very similar to the corresponding English words.