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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Is it centimetre or centimeter?

Even though I've been maintaining the preferred Australian English spelling dictionary now for around 13 years, I still get a surprise every now and then. Recently I created an inches to cm calculator ( and whilst searching the internet, I noticed the spelling centimeters, as well as the usual spelling centimetres on Australian sites. I couldn't help but wonder why so many people would be spelling the word incorrectly.

What I found actually surprised me, but in hindsight, perhaps I shouldn't have been so surprised. I'd never noticed the spelling centimeter before, but that's not unusual. Often we don't notice things even thought they are there.

It turned out the American spelling of the distance related words, metre, centimetre, millimetre are meter, centimeter and millimeter respectively. That was a surprise. However in hindsight, given the American spelling of centre is center, where the re is er, it makes sense this spelling may apply to other words, as it does in this case.

The spelling in Australia is thus centimetre.

Kelvin Eldridge