What are the basic prefixes used in the metric system, and what do they mean?

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ishpiro | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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These are prefixes commonly used in the metric system for quantities that are very small:

centi- is one-hudredth. For example, 5 cm (centimeters) equals 0.05 meters.

Milli- is one-thousandth. For example, 5 milligrams equals 0.005 gram.

Micro- is one-millionth. For example, 5 `muA` (microAmperes) is 0.000005 Amperes. This is a unit in which electric current is measured.

Nano- is one-billions. For example, 5 ns (nanoseconds) equals 0.000000005 seconds.

Occasionally you might also see such prefixes as pico- (`10^(-12))`

and fempto-  (`10^(-15)).`

The following are the prefixes that are commonly used in the metric system for quantities that are very large:

kilo- is thousand. For example, 5 kg (kilogram) equals 5,000 gram.

Mega- is million. For example, 5 MW (megawatts) is 5,000,000 Watts. This is a unit in which electric power is measured.

Giga- is billion. For example, 5 gigabytes is 5,000,000,000 bytes. Even though I am not sure if the units for measuring data officially belong to the metric system, the prefix is still the same.

Occasionally you might also see such prefixes as tera-,  `10^12`

and peta-,  `10^15.`

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gsarora17 | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Commonly used metric prefixes for large quantities are :

Deca   Symbol  da   means        Ten           `10^1` 

Hecto  Symbol  h    means      Hundred        `10^2`      

Kilo    Symbol   K    means     Thousand       `10^3`         

Mega  Symbol  M    means       Million          `10^6`

Giga   Symbol  G    means      Billion           `10^9`

Tera   Symbol   T    means     Trillion          `10^12`

Peta   Symbol   P    means     Quadrillion     `10^15`

Commonly used metric prefixes for small quantities are :

deci      Symbol  d    means    one-tenth              `10^-1`

centi     Symbol  c    means   one-hundredth        `10^-2`

milli      Symbol  m   means  one-thousandth        `10^-3`

micro    Symbol  `mu`    means  one-millionth           `10^-6`

nano    Symbol  n     means   one-billionth            `10^-9`

pico     Symbol  p    means    one-trillionth            `10^-12`

femto  Symbol  f     means   one-quadrillionth       `10^-15`

Sources:
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lavanyatalla | eNotes Newbie

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A metric prefix is a modifier on the root word and it tells us the unit of measure. For example, centigram means we are count in steps of one one-hundredth of a gram, μg means we count by millionths of a gram.

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