From Minuscule ‘m’ to Heroic Hectometers!

From Minuscule ‘m’ to Heroic Hectometers!

Small things can lead to big things. Such is the case of the humble letter ‘m’ that has evolved over time and today helps us measure the world around us in heroic units such as the kilometer, hectometer, and decameter. Let’s take a lighthearted look at the history and usefulness of these units.

A Brief History of ‘m’

The letter ‘m’ has been in use for many centuries to denote a small quantity. For example, the Roman numeral ‘M’ stands for one thousand. However, in the 18th century, the French Academy of Sciences standardized the metric system, which used ‘m’ as the abbreviation for ‘meter,’ a unit of length. The meter was defined as one ten-millionth of the distance between the North Pole and the Equator, through Paris.

Why the Metric System?

The metric system was created to provide a universal system of measurement that was easy to understand and use. It is based on multiples of ten, which makes it simple to convert from one unit to another. It is also more logical and scientific than the traditional systems of measurement, such as the Imperial system used in the United States.

The Hectometer – A Heroic Unit!

While the meter is a commonly used unit of length, it is often too small for practical purposes. That’s where the hectometer comes in. The hectometer is equal to one hundred meters and is a much more useful unit of measurement when dealing with large distances.

Examples of Hectometer Use

  • A football field is approximately 100 meters long, or one hectometer.
  • The Eiffel Tower in Paris is 324 meters high, or just over three hectometers tall.
  • The Great Wall of China is over 13,000 meters long, or one hundred and thirty hectometers.
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How to Convert Meters to Hectometers?

Converting meters to hectometers is easy. You simply divide the number of meters by one hundred. For example, 500 meters is equal to five hectometers (500 ÷ 100 = 5).

The Decameter – Another Heroic Unit!

The decameter is another heroic unit of measurement that represents ten meters. It is less commonly used than the hectometer but can come in handy when dealing with larger objects, such as buildings or fields.

Examples of Decameter Use

  • A typical runway at an airport is around 3,000 meters long, or three hundred decameters.
  • A tennis court is 23.77 meters long, or just under two and a half decameters.
  • A soccer field is between 100 and 130 meters long, or ten to thirteen decameters.

How to Convert Meters to Decameters?

Converting meters to decameters is also straightforward. You divide the number of meters by ten. For example, 250 meters is equal to twenty-five decameters (250 ÷ 10 = 25).

Table of Metric Prefixes

Prefix Symbol Factor Example
Kilo k 1,000 A kilometer is 1,000 meters
Hecto h 100 A hectometer is 100 meters
Deca da 10 A decameter is 10 meters
meter m 1 A meter is 1 meter
Deci d 0.1 A decimeter is 0.1 meters
Centi c 0.01 A centimeter is 0.01 meters
Milli m 0.001 A millimeter is 0.001 meters

More Uncommon Metric Units

Though the hectometer and decameter are not as commonly used as the meter, there are many other metric units of length that you may not have heard of. Some unusual ones include:

  • Nanometer – One billionth of a meter (often used to describe the size of molecules)
  • Micron – One millionth of a meter (often used in the electronics industry)
  • Megameter – One million meters (often used to measure large distances such as astronomical distances)
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Fun Fact – World Records in Meters

The meter is often used as a unit of measurement in sports, and many world records are held in meters. Here are a few examples:

  • The men’s world record for the 100-meter sprint is currently held by Usain Bolt at 9.58 seconds.
  • The women’s world record for the high jump is held by Stefka Kostadinova, who cleared 2.09 meters (just over 6 feet 10 inches).
  • The world record for the longest long jump is held by Mike Powell, who jumped 8.95 meters (just under 30 feet) in 1991.


The metric system has come a long way since its inception, and it all started with the humble letter ‘m.’ The hectometer and decameter are just a few examples of the many useful metric units of length that we use every day. Whether you’re measuring the length of a football field or the height of a skyscraper, knowing how to convert between units can be a valuable skill. So the next time you’re faced with a measurement challenge, remember that small things can lead to big things, and that’s certainly the case with the minuscule ‘m’ and the heroic hectometer!


  • “The Metric System.” National Institute of Standards and Technology, 10 Apr. 2019,
  • “Hectometer – Length Unit of Measure.” LiveScience, 26 Feb. 2018,
  • “Decameter – Length Unit of Measure.” LiveScience, 22 Jan. 2018,