Meter vs. metre

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Meter and metre are two spellings that often cause confusion. For the unit of measurement, equaling approximately 1.094 yards, meter is the American spelling, and metre is preferred in British English. The same distinction applies to the terms used in poetry and music. In American English, the spelling meter is commonly used for the unit of length measurement, while in most other varieties of English, including British English, the spelling metre is preferred.

Both spellings are correct; however, it’s essential to use the appropriate one based on the context and audience.


For example, these non-U.S. publications use metre for the unit of length as well as for the term in poetry and music:

Where a person could fall at least one metre from a building, the Australian Building Code requires balconies and barriers to be a metre high. [The Age]

Many poets and hymn-writers reworked the 23rd Psalm in metre and rhyme. [The Guardian]

The first of the 43-metre ships is expected to enter service with the coast guard this year. [The Canadian Press]

Yeats was from an age when rhyming and metre were still central to a poet’s work. [Telegraph]

All versions of English use meter to denote any type of measuring device—for example:

B.C.’s smart meter system will become fully operational by the end of 2012. []

British Gas says it has to accept the final meter reading provided by your new energy supplier. [The Guardian]

And U.S. writers use meter for all senses of the word—for example:

Some Myrtle Beach city leaders want to increase parking meter rates as early as this spring. [WPDE]

The finale is ablaze with a meter-fracturing folk melody in octaves. [NY Times]

He won the 400-meter dash in a time of 49.51 seconds.  [Sheboygan Press]