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Kilometer vs. Mile: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Kilometer is a unit of length in the metric system, equal to 1,000 meters. Mile is a unit of length in the imperial system, equal to 1,609.34 meters.
Kilometer vs. Mile

Key Differences

Originating from the metric system, it is widely used globally for measuring distances, especially in countries that follow the International System of Units. Mile: Part of the imperial system, it remains prevalent in the United States and the United Kingdom for road distances.
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Commonly abbreviated as 'km', it is a preferred unit in scientific and engineering contexts due to its compatibility with the decimal system. Mile: Abbreviated as 'mi', it is often used in everyday contexts like driving distances in countries that use the imperial system.
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The term 'kilometer' is derived from a combination of the Greek words for 'thousand' ('kilo') and 'meter'. It symbolizes a thousand meters. Mile: The word 'mile' has a historical origin, tracing back to the Roman 'mille passus', meaning a thousand paces.
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In athletic events and road races outside the USA, distances are commonly measured in kilometers. Mile: In contrast, the mile is often used in races and athletic events within the United States.
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It is a standard unit for expressing geographical distances on land in most parts of the world. Mile: Despite its less frequent global usage, the mile is still key in nautical and aviation contexts internationally.
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Comparison Chart

System of Measurement

Metric
Imperial
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Length

1,000 meters
1,609.34 meters
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Usage

Predominantly outside the USA
Mainly in the USA and UK
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Abbreviation

Km
Mi
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Origin of Term

Greek words 'kilo' and 'meter'
Latin 'mille passus', meaning a thousand paces
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Conversion to Other

1 km = 0.621371 miles
1 mile = 1.60934 kilometers
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Kilometer and Mile Definitions

Kilometer

A kilometer is a unit of length equal to 1,000 meters.
The park is about three kilometers from my house.
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Mile

In the United States, a mile is commonly used for road distances.
It's about five miles to the nearest gas station.
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Kilometer

In the metric system, a kilometer is used for measuring distance.
We walked five kilometers along the beach.
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Mile

A mile is a longer distance measurement than a kilometer.
The hiking trail stretches for eight miles.
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Kilometer

A kilometer is a metric measurement of length, often used in mapping and navigation.
The map scale showed 1 centimeter as equivalent to 1 kilometer.
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Mile

A mile, historically based on the Roman measurement, is used for distance.
They live a mile away from the school.
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Kilometer

A kilometer represents one thousand meters in linear measurement.
The marathon race is 42.195 kilometers long.
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Mile

A mile is often used in aviation and nautical contexts.
The flight covered several hundred miles.
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Kilometer

Kilometer is a standard unit for road distances outside the USA.
The next town is 10 kilometers away.
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Mile

A mile is a unit of length in the imperial system, equivalent to 1,609.34 meters.
The race was a 10-mile run.
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Kilometer

A metric unit of length equal to 1,000 meters (0.62 mile). See Table at measurement.
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Oct 19, 2023

Mile

Abbr. mi. or mi A unit of length equal to 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards (1,609 meters), used in the United States and other English-speaking countries. Also called land mile, statute mile. See Table at measurement.
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Kilometer

Alternative spelling of kilometre
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Mile

A nautical mile.
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Kilometer

A measure of length, being a thousand meters. It is equal to 3,280.84 feet, or 0.62137119 of a mile.
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Mile

An air mile.
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Kilometer

A metric unit of length equal to 1000 meters (or 0.621371 miles)
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Mile

(Sports) A race that is one mile long.
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Mile

A relatively great distance
Had to walk for miles in the airport.
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Mile

The international mile: a unit of length precisely equal to 1.609344 kilometers established by treaty among Anglophone nations in 1959, divided into 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards.
Turn left in 1.2 miles.
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Mile

Any of several customary units of length derived from the 1593 English statute mile of 8 furlongs, equivalent to 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards of various precise values.
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Mile

Any of many customary units of length derived from the Roman mile (mille passus) of 8 stades or 5,000 Roman feet.
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Mile

The Scandinavian mile: a unit of length precisely equal to 10 kilometers defined in 1889.
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Mile

Any of many customary units of length from other measurement systems of roughly similar values, as the Chinese (里) or Arabic mile (al-mīl).
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Oct 19, 2023

Mile

(travel) An airline mile in a frequent flyer program.
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Mile

(informal) Any similarly large distance.
The shot missed by a mile.
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Mile

(slang) A race of 1 mile's length; a race of around 1 mile's length (usually 1500 or 1600 meters)
The runners competed in the mile.
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Mile

(slang) One mile per hour, as a measure of speed.
Five miles over the speed limit
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Mile

A certain measure of distance, being equivalent in England and the United States to 320 poles or rods, or 5,280 feet.
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Mile

A unit of length equal to 1760 yards
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Mile

A unit of length used in navigation; equivalent to the distance spanned by one minute of arc in latitude; 1,852 meters
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Mile

A large distance;
He missed by a mile
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Mile

A former British unit of length once used in navigation; equivalent to 1828.8 meters (6000 feet)
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Mile

A British unit of length equivalent to 1,853.18 meters (6,082 feet)
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Mile

An ancient Roman unit of length equivalent to 1620 yards
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Mile

A Swedish unit of length equivalent to 10 km
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Mile

A footrace extending one mile;
He holds the record in the mile
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

How is the mile used in the USA?

It is used for road distances and various sporting events.
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How many meters are in a kilometer?

There are 1,000 meters in a kilometer.
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What is the origin of the word 'kilometer'?

It comes from the Greek words 'kilo' (thousand) and 'meter' (measure).
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Can kilometers and miles be converted?

Yes, 1 kilometer is approximately 0.621371 miles, and 1 mile is 1.60934 kilometers.
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Is the mile longer than the kilometer?

Yes, a mile is longer than a kilometer.
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Are kilometers used in nautical measurements?

No, nautical miles are used instead.
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Is the mile part of the metric system?

No, it is part of the imperial system.
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Why do some countries use miles instead of kilometers?

It's due to historical and cultural reasons, with the imperial system being traditional in these regions.
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Is the mile used in scientific research?

Generally, the metric system, including kilometers, is preferred in scientific research.
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Is the kilometer used in mapping?

Yes, it's commonly used in mapping and navigation worldwide.
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Do all countries use kilometers?

Most countries use kilometers, but the USA, UK, and a few others use miles for certain purposes.
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What is the abbreviation for kilometer?

It is abbreviated as 'km'.
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What is a nautical mile?

It's a unit used in maritime and aviation, different from the land mile.
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How does the kilometer relate to the meter?

A kilometer is equal to 1,000 meters.
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Are road signs in the USA in miles or kilometers?

They are in miles.
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How does GPS technology use these units?

GPS can display distances in either kilometers or miles, depending on user settings.
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How is the kilometer used in sports?

It's used for measuring race distances in athletics outside the USA.
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Are kilometers and miles interchangeable?

They are not directly interchangeable and require conversion.
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What is a common use for the mile in the UK?

It's used for road distances and speed limits.
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How did the mile get its name?

It derives from the Latin 'mille passus', meaning a thousand paces.
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Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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