[ki-lom-i-ter, kil-uh-mee‐]


a unit of length, the common measure of distances equal to 1000 meters, and equivalent to 3280.8 feet or 0.621 mile. Abbreviation: km

Also especially British, kil·o·me·tre.

Origin of kilometer

From the French word kilomètre, dating back to 1800–10. See kilo-, meter1
Related formskil·o·met·ric [kil-uh-me-trik] /ˌkɪl əˈmɛ trɪk/, kil·o·met·ri·cal, adjective

Pronunciation note

The usual pronunciation for units of measurement starting with kilo-, as kilocalorie, kiloliter, and kilohertz, as well as for units of length ending in the base word meter, as centimeter, hectometer, and millimeter, gives primary stress to the first syllable and secondary to the third. It would seem logical for kilometer to follow this pattern, and in fact the pronunciation [kil-uh-mee-ter] /ˈkɪl əˌmi tər/ has been used since the early 1800's. A second pronunciation: [ki-lom-i-ter] /kɪˈlɒm ɪ tər/, with stress on the second syllable only, was first recorded in America before 1830. Although often criticized on the basis of analogy, this pronunciation has persisted in American English, increasing in frequency, and has gained popularity in British English as well. It is reinforced by words for instruments (rather than units) of measurement ending in -meter, as thermometer, barometer, and speedometer, having stress on the -om syllable. Both pronunciations are used by educated speakers, including members of the scientific community. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for kilometre

Historical Examples of kilometre

  • If you give these French chauffeurs an inch they'll take a kilometre.

    The Angel of Terror

    Edgar Wallace

  • Without bothering with all these decimals, a kilometre is about five-eighths of a mile.

    Asiatic Breezes

    Oliver Optic

  • That is one of the five kilometre posts; and you will find them all the way to the Red Sea.

    Asiatic Breezes

    Oliver Optic

  • Molne is a kilometre long and rather more than half as wide.

    Rambles in Brittany

    Francis Miltoun

  • He knows that there is a triple row of tents, a quarter of a kilometre apart.

British Dictionary definitions for kilometre


US kilometer


one thousand metres, equal to 0.621371 milesSymbol: km
Derived Formskilometric (ˌkɪləʊˈmɛtrɪk) or kilometrical, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for kilometre

chiefly British English spelling of kilometer; also see -re.



1810, from French kilomètre (1795); see kilo- + meter (n.2). Related: Kilometric.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

kilometre in Science


[kĭ-lŏmĭ-tər, kĭlə-mē′tər]

A unit of length in the metric system equal to 1,000 meters (0.62 mile). See Table at measurement.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

kilometre in Culture


[(ki-lom-uh-tuhr, kil-uh-mee-tuhr)]

In the metric system, one thousand meters, or about five-eighths of a mile.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.