Length - Units


In the physical sciences and engineering, when one speaks of "units of length", the word "length" is synonymous with "distance". There are several units that are used to measure length. Units of length may be based on lengths of human body parts, the distance travelled in a number of paces, the distance between landmarks or places on the Earth, or arbitrarily on the length of some fixed object.

In the International System of Units (SI), the basic unit of length is the meter and is now defined in terms of the speed of light. The centimeter and the kilometer, derived from the meter, are also commonly used units. In U.S. customary units, English or Imperial system of units, commonly used units of length are the inch, the foot, the yard, and the mile.

Units used to denote distances in the vastness of space, as in astronomy, are much longer than those typically used on Earth and include the astronomical unit, the light-year, and the parsec.

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