Litre or Liter – Difference, Meaning & Spelling

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

If you’re super confused about whether to use “litre” or “liter” but are too embarrassed to ask the difference, don’t worry, you’re not alone. The difference between these two words can be confusing, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the metric system. So, I’ll go over the definitions and proper usage for both so you never have to think about it again.

Litre vs. Liter: What’s the Difference?

Litre or Liter Difference Meaning Spelling

It’s a classic case of alternate spellings by region. “Litre” is the spelling most used in British English, and “liter” with an ER is the preferred spelling in American English.

Despite the difference in spelling, we use both words for the same unit of measurement: one cubic decimeter, which is equivalent to 1000 cubic centimeters or 0.001 cubic meters.

This ngram shows that liter is the more common spelling around the world. 

Liter vs Litre Ngram
Liter and Litre Usage Trend.

Is It Litres or Liters?

British English Liters vs. Litres Ngram
British English Liters and Litres Usage Trend.

As I just touched on, “litres” is the UK (or British English) spelling of the unit of measurement, and “liters” is the acceptable American spelling. So, the alternative spellings depend on which variant of English you’re using and who you’re writing for.

Is Litre a Capital L or a Small L?

In both British and American English, “litre” or “liter” should be written with a lowercase “l” unless you’re using it at the beginning of a sentence or if it’s part of a proper noun like a name or brand.

When to Use Litre

While both are correct and widely accepted, you should use “litre” when you’re writing in British English.

  • The car’s fuel tank can hold up to 50 litres of petrol.
  • The recipe calls for 250 millilitres of milk.

When to Use Liter

And be sure to use “liter” when you’re writing in American English.

  • The car’s fuel tank can hold up to 13.2 gallons, equivalent to 50 liters.
  • The recipe calls for 1 liter of water.

In Canada, both spellings are totally acceptable. I see both used all the time, and we’re all aware of what it means. 

Litre Examples in a Sentence

Litre or Liter Difference Meaning Spelling 1
  • The bottle of wine is 1.5 litres, which won’t be enough for our girl’s night.
  • Our new swimming pool holds 500,000 litres of water!
  • The king was crushed by a million litres of sewage.
  • We should bring a few litres of water on our biking trip.

Liter Examples in a Sentence

  • Our new car’s engine has a displacement of 2.0 liters.
  • I put 50 liters of gas in the truck before we left, so we should have enough to get there.
  • We go through eight liters of milk a week in our house.
  • The water tank on the property can hold up to 1000 liters of water.

Final Words on Liter and Litre

So, just remember that regardless of the spelling, a liter or litre is the same unit of measurement. Americans spell it with an ER at the end, and people in the UK spell it with RE. Also, you don’t have to capitalize it unless it’s in a name or at the beginning of a sentence.

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