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SI Units - Volume

Dice, Beverage Bottles, Shipping Container collage
Credit: Pixabay and Adobe Stock

Volume is the measure of the 3-dimensional space occupied by matter, or enclosed by a surface, measured in cubic units. The SI unit of volume is the cubic meter (m3), which is a derived unit.

  • Liter (L) is a special name for the cubic decimeter (dm3). The symbol for the liter is uppercase letter “ell” (L) is preferred to avoid the risk of confusion between the lowercase letter “ell” (l) and the number one (1). The script letter l (l) is not an approved symbol for the liter.
  • Milliliter (mL) is a special name for the cubic centimeter (cm3).

Common Units of Volume

1000 cubic millimeters (mm3)

= 1 cubic centimeter (cm3)

1 cm3

= 1 milliliter (mL)

10 mL

= 1 centiliter (cL)

10 cL

= 1 deciliter (dL)

1 dL

= 100 milliliters (mL)

1000 cm3

= 1 cubic decimeter (dm3)

1 dm3

= 1 liter (L)

10 dL

= 1 L

1000 mL

= 1 L

10 L

= 1 dekaliter (daL)

10 daL

= 1 hectoliter (hL)

1 hL

= 100 L

1000 dm3

= 1 cubic meter (m3)

1000 L

= 1 m3

1000 L

= 1 kL

1 kL

= 10 hL

Visualize one cubic decimeter (dm3) or one liter (1 L) as a cube where each side is:

  • 100 mm;
  • 10 cm;
  • 1 dm; or
  • 0.1 m.

Visualize one liter (1 L) as:

  • 1 m2 area that 1 mm deep

Everyday Volumes

15 mL

Eye Drop Bottle

80 mL

Empty Human Stomach

200 mL

Juice Box

355 mL

Soda Pop Can

4L

Full Human Stomach

5 L

Blood in Human Body

235 L

Bathtub

1 ML

Olympic Swimming Pool

 

Bodies of Water Continent Volume of Water (estimated)
Caspian Sea Asia 78 700 km3
Lake Baikal Asia 23 600 km3
Lake Superior North America 12 100 km3
Lake Michigan North America 4 920 km3
Lake Huron North America 3 540 km3
Lake Victoria Africa 2 700 km3
Lake Ontario North America 1 700 km3
Lake Lodoga Europe 908 km3
Lake Erie North America 484 km3
Lake Maracaibo South America 280 km3
Lake Tahoe North America 151 km3
Lake Mead North America 35 km3

Resources:

Two photos show liter models: A paper cube on the left, and a plastic cube with colored blocks inside on the right.
Credit: NIST
  • Metric Rainfall Calculation Activity and Rainfall Rates (US Geological Survey). How much water falls during a rain storm? Choose an area and a rainfall amount (mL) to determine the volume of water (L) that fell from the sky and was delivered onto that area. You'll be surprised about much rain really does fall during a rainstorm. A variety of common rainfall rates (mm per hour) are described.
  • SI Prefixes.  In the metric system of measurement, designations of multiples and subdivision of any unit may be arrived at by combining with the name of the unit the prefixes.
  • Volume models illustrate one cubic decimeter (dm3), also known as a liter (L). When a template is printed on cardstock and assembled, the two sheets create a cube 10 centimeters on each side with a volume of 1000 cm3.
  • Calculate Volume Become familiar with methods used to calculate the volume of common objects. (NIST)
  • NISTIR 7383, Selected Procedures for Volumetric Calibrations, Good Measurement Practice (GMP 3), Method of Reading a Meniscus Using Water or Other Wetting Liquid (NIST) 
  • Rainfall Rates and Water Volume (NASA)
  • Rainfall Amount, Intensity, and Distribution (FAO United Nations)
  • Metric Rainfall Calculation Activity and Rainfall Rates (US Geological Survey). How much water falls during a rain storm? Choose an area and a rainfall amount (mL) to determine the volume of water (L) that fell from the sky and was delivered onto that area. You'll be surprised about much rain really does fall during a rainstorm. A variety of common rainfall rates (mm per hour) are described.

Navigate to more SI base unit information:

Created August 1, 2011, Updated November 2, 2022