'Litre' or 'Liter': What's the Difference Between the Two?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on January 10, 2023

Are you wondering whether to spell the word ‘litre’ or ‘liter’? And what is the difference between the two? We’ll clear that up in this article, plus teach you how to use the correct one in a sentence.

The short answer is:

  • ‘Litre’ is the standard spelling around the world.
  • ‘Liter’ is the American English spelling of the word.

There’s no difference between these words except the spelling. They both mean ‘a metric unit of measurement.’

What’s the Difference Between ‘Liter’ and ‘Litre’? 

There’s no real difference between ‘liter’ and ‘litre.’ They’re two versions of the same word. In other words, the former is the American English spelling of the word. The other version is used all over the world.

‘Liter’ or ‘Litre’ – What’s the Difference?

As you just learned, there’s no real difference between these two words other than the spelling. They mean the exact same thing, which means they can be used interchangeably. Therefore, they don't qualify as homophones.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Litre’ and ‘Liter’

The Merriam-Webster definition of these words is: “a metric unit of capacity equal to one cubic decimeter.”

The Cambridge dictionary defines the word as: “a unit for measuring the volume of a liquid or a gas, equal to 1,000 cubic centimeters.”

A Brief History

The first known use of the word was in 1797, and it comes from the French word litre, the Medieval Latin word litra (meaning a measure), which comes from the Greek word litra, meaning ‘a weight’ or ‘pound.’

This is apparently from the same Sicilian Italic sources as the Latin word libra.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Litre’ and ‘Liter’

To pronounce the word correctly, the phonetic spelling is: LEE-TUH.

It also sounds like the word ‘leader,’ especially with the soft pronunciation of the ‘d.’

How to Use ‘Litre’ and ‘Liter’ in a Sentence

Now that we know what the words mean and how to pronounce them let’s see some examples of how to use them in a sentence.

  • Can you pick up a liter of soda for dinner? We ran out of drinks last night.
  • My car has a 2.5 liter engine, which isn’t too bad, according to my Grandpa.
  • I need to apologize for throwing that liter of Gatorade in your face last week.
  • There’s a liter of water in the cafeteria that anyone can access.
  • He brought a liter of beer to the softball game, which everyone greatly appreciated.
  • I try to drink a liter or two of water every day. It helps me stay in optimum health.

Remember that both words mean the same thing. Therefore, you can swap the American version out for the other version if your audience happens to change.

Final Thoughts on ‘Litre’ and ‘Liter’

To recap, we learned that these words both mean the same exact thing. They can be used interchangeably when your audience changes. The only difference is that ‘liter’ is the American English version of the word. The other version is used all over the world.

Think you might get stuck again? We’ve got an entire library of content on confusing words and phrases that you might have trouble with while learning the language.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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