Spelling Tips: Meter vs Metre | Proofed’s Writing Tips

Spelling Ti: Meter vs Metre

The words “meter” and “metre” sound the same, but only “meter” is used in American English. So what does “metre” mean? Check out our guide below to see how to use these two words accurately in your writing.

Meter in American English

In American English, “meter” is a noun that refers to a metric unit of measurement of length, equal to 100 centimeters:

The wall around the fortress was four meters high.

At 1.97 meters, my cousin Jim is an unusually tall man. 

“Meter” is also noun meaning a tool used to measure and record a quantity or rate of something, such as an electricity meter or a gas meter: 

We let the electrician into the house so he could read the electricity meter.

The taxi driver kept the meter running while Jane jumped out of the car.

Sometimes, we use “meter” as a suffix in the names of measuring instruments. For example, it’s used in “thermometer” (an instrument used to measure temperature) and “odometer” (an instrument used to measure distance travelled by a vehicle):

The odometer on my bicycle told me that I had travelled 112 miles!

“Meter” can also be used to refer to the rhythmic structure within a poem. Each meter can be divided into feet (not to be confused with the imperial unit of measurement) and each foot into syllables:

Our homework is to write a poem with a meter of five feet and ten syllables.

In all these cases, the American English spelling is “meter.”

Meter and Metre in British English

In British English (and other English dialects, such as Australian English), the spelling for the unit of measurement and the rhythmic structure within a poem is “metre”:

At 1.97 metres, my cousin Jim is an unusually tall man. 

Our homework is to write a poem with a metre of five feet and ten syllables.

This follows the standard spelling difference between American English (which prefers to end words in “er”) and other English dialects (which prefer to end words in “re”). The spelling “metre” is never correct in American English.

In British English and other English dialects, however, the spelling “meter” does exist. It is used to refer to measuring instruments and as a suffix in the names of measuring instruments:

We let the electrician into the house so he could read the electricity meter.

The odometer on my bicycle told me that I had travelled 112 miles!

Summary: Meter or Metre?

Although these two words sound the same, they can have different meanings, depending on the context and English dialect:

  • In American English, we use the word meter to refer to a unit of measurement and the rhythmic structure within a poem.
  • In all English dialects, meter refers to a measuring tool. It is also used as a suffix in the names of measuring tools.
  • Metre refers to a unit of measurement or the rhythmic structure within a poem in British English and other English dialects.

Hopefully, it should now be clear how to use “meter” and “metre” in your writing. However, if you would like help to check your writing is error free, why not try our proofreading service today?

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