There are various different ways to measure volume in the metric and imperial systems. Millititers and liters are common units that are used in countries that have the metric system. Fluid ounces, on the other hand, are more commonly used in the US and other countries that use the imperial system.

Cubic measurements such as cubic centimeters and cubic meters can be used to measure the volume of both solids and liquids. These units are unusual in the sense that they are metric measurements but are used in the US, which has never officially adopted the metric system.

It's fairly easy to work out the volume of containers in cubic centimeters. As such, this unit is often used in the medical and engineering fields. However, cubic centimeters aren't commonly used in cooking or other areas of everyday life.

We've written this guide to help you understand how cubic centimeters are used to measure volume. We'll talk you through how you can work out the volume of objects using cubic centimeters and how you can convert from this unit to other metric and imperial units.

A cubic centimeter is a unit of volume in the metric system. This unit is typically abbreviated to cc or cm3. Cubic centimeters are used to measure the space that is occupied by a liquid or solid inside a container.

The measurement is derived from the cubic meter, which is the official volume unit in The International System of Units. This unit in itself derives from the meter (the official unit of length). The mass of a single cubic centimeter of water at the temperature 3.98 °C (39.16°F) is approximately equal to one gram.

The measurement of a single cubic centimeter is equivalent to a small cube that measures 1 cm x 1 cm x 1 cm. It's possible to measure the volume of a shape by using the formula length × width × height. The answer to the mentioned formula should be in cm3 if the measurements of the shape are in centimeters.

Continue reading to find out what a cubic centimeter is used to measure and how it is comparable to other units of measurement.

How small is a cubic centimeter?

A single cubic centimeter is the approximate size of a chocolate chip or the eraser on the end of a pencil. There are 1/1,000,000th of a cubic meter or 1/1000th of a liter. Five cubic centimeters are also approximately equal to one teaspoon, which is a common measurement of volume in the imperial system.

Cubic centimeters are directly comparable to milliliters (ml), as 1 cm3 is equal to 1ml. The two units represent the exact same measure of volume and are both official units of The International System of Units.

Milliliters are more commonly used than cubic centimeters. While milliliters tend to be used to measure liquids and gases, cubic centimeters are typically used to measure solids. However, the two units can be used interchangeably.

How can I measure volume in cubic centimeters?

Volume is the amount of space that a solid or liquid takes up in an object. It's easier to calculate the volume of an object if it's a standardized shape such as a cylinder, cube or sphere.

In the formulas below, the letters stand for the following measurements:

  • V = volume
  • L = length
  • W = width
  • H = height
  • R = radius

The formula for finding volume of a cube or cuboid is V=l×w×h. You would need to measure the length, width and height of the shape and multiply them together to find the volume of its interior. For example, you may have a shoe box that measures 36cm x 25cm x 13cm. This means that the volume of the shoe box is 11,700cm3

The formula for finding the volume of a cylinder is V=π×r2×h. To work this out, you would need to find the area of the circle at the end of the cylinder. This can be calculated by squaring the radius of the circle and multiplying that answer by pi (π). You should then multiply this result by the height of the cylinder, which will give you the volume of the shape.

For example, if the radius of the cylinder's circle was 3cm and the height was 8cm, the equation would be as follows:

3cm2 = 9cm

9cm x 3.14 = 28.26cm

28.26cm x 8cm = 226.08cm3

The formula for finding the volume of a sphere is V=34​πr3

You will need to cube the radius of the sphere and multiply the result by pi. Then, multiply this result by 4/3, which will give you the volume of the sphere.

For example, if the sphere has a radius of 10cm, this cubed would be 1000cm.

1000cm x 3.14 = 3,140

3,140 x 4/3 = 4186.67cm3

As cubic centimeters are so small, this unit is typically used to measure the volume of small objects and liquids. This unit of volume is used in countries that have adopted the metric system, although milliliters are more commonly used when measuring liquids.

The unit is also used in the US, although the country officially uses its own customary system rather than the metric system. Americans typically use cubic centimeters in the medical field for measuring medicine dosage. The unit is also commonly used in the automotive field for measuring things such as an engine's capacity. Most other countries around the world would measure these in milliliters.

It's imperative that medicines are correctly measured before they are administered to patients. Syringes have scales on the side that helps you to know how much liquid it contains. Some syringes will have a scale in milliliters (ml) whilst others will be in cubic centimeters (cc). However, as the units are interchangeable, the dose should stay the same no matter which units are provided.

It's helpful to know the conversion rate from cubic centimeters to other units in the metric and imperial systems.

The table below lists the conversion rate between metric and imperial units with cubic centimeters.

UnitConverted to cm3
1 meter31,000,000
1 millimeter30.001
1 liter1,000
1 milliliter1
1 gallon3,785.41
1 cup236.588

At the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) held by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in 1901, the liter was officially declared as the space occupied by 1 kg of pure water at 3.98 °C. This is the temperature of water's maximum density. From this, various other units were created such as the milliliter, which is one-thousandth of a liter.

Cubic centimeter vs cubic inch

One cubic centimeter is equal to about 0.061 cubic inches. Comparably, one cubic inch is approximately equal to 16.38cm3.

To convert from cubic centimeters to cubic inches, you need to multiply the number of cubic centimeters by 0.061. For example, if you had a measure of 20cm3, the equation would be as follows:

20 x 0.061 = 1.22in3

To convert from cubic inches to cubic centimeters, you would need to multiply the number of cubic inches by the conversion rate of 16.38. For example, if you had a measure of 36in3, the equation would be:

36 x 16.38 = 589.68cm3

As cubic inches is a unit in the imperial system, it is less commonly used than cubic centimeters. Apart from three countries (US, Liberia and Myanmar), the rest of the world uses the metric system and consequently cubic centimeters when measuring volume.

Many people get confused between volume and capacity. In basic terms, volume measures the amount of space that an object or substance covers, whilst capacity refers to the maximum amount of liquid or solids that a container can hold.

Only objects that are hollow can have their capacity measured, whereas both solid and hollow objects can have their volume measured. The capacity of objects is typically measured in units such as liters, whereas the volume of objects is measured in cubic units, such as cubic centimeters.

For example, the capacity of a tank full of water is the quantity of water that is needed to fully fill the tank. The water tank's volume, on the other hand, is the space that the water and tank itself fill.

There are various other units that can be used to measure volume of solids, liquids and gases. Below is a breakdown of the different units that are commonly used in the metric and imperial systems.

Metric units

Some of the most commonly used metric units for volume are milliliters (ml) and liters (L). A single raindrop contains approximately 1ml of water, while a standard bottle of water will usually contain 1L. In most countries, gasoline (petrol) is bought and sold in liters. To convert between the two, you need to multiply the number of liters by 1,000 to work out the volume in milliliters.

Imperial units

The US is one of only a few countries to use the imperial system. The units of volume in the imperial system include the fluid ounce, pint and gallon. In the US, gasoline is sold in gallons. Although the UK typically uses the metric system for measuring, the imperial system is still commonly used too. Drinks such as beer and cider are sold in pints in the UK, which is approximately 20% larger than a pint in the US (28.41 ml compared to 29.57 ml).

A cubic centimeter is a metric unit used to measure volume. One cubic centimeter is equal to one milliliter, both of which can be interchangeably used to measure the volume of liquids and solids. Cubic centimeters are commonly used to measure medicines in the medical field, as well as the engine capacity of vehicles in the automotive field.

There are different formulas for calculating the volume of various shapes. For example, to calculate the volume of a cube, you should multiply the height, width and length of the cube together. If the measurements are in centimeters, the answer should be written in centimeters cubed. Conversely, if the measurements are in meters, the answer would be in meters cubed.

Measuring in cubic centimeters is helpful if you are measuring the volume of a small object or liquid. However, milliliters are commonly used to measure liquid in most countries and cubic centimeters are used to measure the volume of solids. As the two units equal the same amount, they can be used interchangeably.