General English


  • noun a measure of capacity equal to 1000 cc or 1.76 pints.


  • noun the volume of one kilogram of water at 4°C (= 1,000cc or 1.76 pints)


  • masculine The normal measure of volume approximately equal to 1.75 imperial pints or 2.1 US pints, or divided into decilitres (dl) (10 per litre), centilitres (cl) (100 per litre) or millilitres (ml) (1000 per litre). A teaspoon is 5 ml, a dessertspoon 10 ml, a tablespoon 15 ml and an imperial pint 568 ml.


  • the standard metric unit of volume measurement

Origin & History of “litre”

Litre goes back to Greek lītrā, a term which denoted a Sicilian monetary unit. this found its way via medieval Latin litrā into French as litron, where it was used for a unit of capacity. By the 18th century it had rather fallen out of use, but in 1793 it was revived, in the form litre, as the name for the basic unit of capacity in the new metric system. It is first recorded in English in 1810.

The Greek word was descended from an earlier, unrecorded *līthrā, which was borrowed into Latin as lībra ‘pound’. This is the source of various modern terms for units of weight, and hence of currency, including Italian lira and the now disused French livre, and it also lies behind the English symbol £ for ‘pound’.