Metric Volume


Volume is the amount of 3-dimensional space something takes up.

The two most common measurements of volume are:


MilliliterA milliliter is a very small amount of liquid.

Here is a milliliter of milk in a teaspoon.

It only fills the bottom of the teaspoon!

The word milliliter literally means one thousandth ("milli") of a liter. More about liters later!


When we collect 20 drops of water, we have about 1 milliliter:

20 drops of water droplets make about 1 milliliter

And a teaspoon can hold about five milliliters:

1 teaspoon of liquid Teaspoonful is about 5 milliliters

150ml milk in cup

Milliliters are often written as ml (for short), so "100 ml" means "100 milliliters".

They can also be written mL (with a captal L so it doesn't look like "1")

Here we have 150 ml of milk in a measuring cup.

It doesn't say "150" ... it says "50" ... but it is half-way between 100 and 200 so you can figure out it is 150 ml.



cubic meter is a cube with 1m on each side

1 milliliter (ml) is also 1 cubic centimeter (cc)

In other words 1 milliliter is exactly the same as a little cube that is 1 cm on each side (1 cubic centimeter). 

How many cubic centimeters can fit in this teaspoon?

Teaspoonful is 5cm
The bowl of this teaspoon is about 4 cm long and 2 cm wide.

If it was uniformly full to exactly 1cm high it would contain 8 of those 1cm × 1cm × 1cm cubes, making 8 cc.

But because of its shape it only holds about 5 cc (or 5 ml).

liter water


A liter is just a bunch of milliliters put all together. In fact, 1000 milliliters makes up 1 liter:

1 liter = 1,000 milliliters

This jug has exactly 1 liter of water in it.

Liters are often written as L (for short), so "3 L" means "3 Liters" (some people use lowercase l, but that looks too much like 1).

Milk, soda and other drinks are often sold in liters.

1 ltr cube is 0.1m (or 10cm or 100mm) on each side

A cube that is 0.1 meters (10 cm or 100 mm)
on each side contains 1 liter,


and a square meter that is 1 millimeter thick also contains 1 liter.

1 ltr is 1m x 1m x 1mm

The next time you are at the store take a minute and look on the labels to see how many liters (or milliliters) are in each container!

Other Volume Measurements

You may come across these other volume measurements:

Cubic Millimeter

A Cubic Millimeter is a cube that is 1 millimeter on each side.

It is very small, and we need 1,000 Cubic Millimeters to make just one milliliter.

It is also one-millionth of a liter, and one-billionth of a cubic meter.

Cubic Centimeter (cc)

cubic meter is a cube with 1m on each side

A Cubic Centimeter (abbreviated cc or cm3) is a cube that is 1 centimeter on each side.

It is the same as 1 milliliter (1 ml):

1 cc = 1 ml

So it is one-thousandth of a liter, or one-millionth of a cubic meter.

Deciliter (dl)


A deciliter (abbreviated dl) is 1/10th of a liter, or 100ml:

1 dl = 100 ml

Cubic Meter (m3)

cubic meter is a cube with 1m on each side

The basic unit of volume is a cube that is 1 meter on each side.

The Unit is written m3 (cubic meters).

It is equal to 1,000 liters.

1 m3 = 1,000 Liters

Megaliters (ML)

A Megaliter is a million liters (1,000,000 L). Useful for measuring large quantities of water, such as in dams and small lakes.

1 ML = 1,000 m3 = 1,000,000 Liters

cubic meter is a cube with 1m on each side

Cubic Kilometer (km3)

A Cubic Kilometer (abbreviated km3) is a cube that is 1 kilometer on each side. It is very large!

It is equal to 1,000,000,000 cubic meters (1 billion m3) or 1,000,000,000,000 liters (1 trillion L).

Useful for measuring large lakes, seas and oceans.

Lake Baikal, the largest continental lake in the world, contains 23,600 km3 of water.

The Pacific Ocean contains 700,000,000 km3 of water.


More Examples

A liter (L) is:

A milliliter (ml) is

handful of rice
A "handful" (not an exact measure!) is about 40 ml

measuring cup metric
A cup is 250 ml, so 4 cups make a liter

Activity: Discover Capacity