Unit of measurement

Definite magnitude of a quantity which is used as a standard for measuring the same kind of quantity

Metrology is the science of developing nationally and internationally accepted units of measurement.

A unit of measurement is a standardised quantity of a physical property, used as a factor to express occurring quantities of that property. Units of measurement were among the earliest tools invented by humans. Primitive societies needed rudimentary measures for many tasks: constructing dwellings of an appropriate size and shape, fashioning clothing, or bartering food or raw materials.

Weights and measures are mentioned in the Bible (Leviticus 19:35–36). It is a commandment to be honest and have fair measures.

The use of a single unit of measurement for some quantity has obvious drawbacks. For example, it is impractical to use the same unit for the distance between two cities and the length of a needle. Thus, historically they would develop independently. One way to make large numbers or small fractions easier to read, is to use unit prefixes.

As science progressed, a need arose to relate the measurement systems of different quantities, like length and weight and volume. The effort of attempting to relate different traditional systems between each other exposed many inconsistencies, and brought about the development of new units and systems.

Historically many of the systems of measurement which had been in use were to some extent based on the dimensions of the human body. As a result, units of measure could vary not only from location to location but from person to person.

For most quantities a unit is necessary to communicate values of that physical quantity. For example, conveying to someone a particular length without using some sort of unit is impossible, because a length cannot be described without a reference used to make sense of the value given.

Different systems of units are based on different choices of a set of related units including fundamental and derived units.

A distinction should be made between units and standards. A unit is fixed by its definition and is independent of physical conditions such as temperature. By contrast, a standard is a physical realization of a unit and realizes that unit only under certain physical conditions. For example, a metre is a unit, while a metal bar is a standard. One metre is the same length regardless of temperature, but a metal bar will be exactly one metre long only at a certain temperature.

Conversion of units involves comparison of different standard physical values, either of a single physical quantity or of a physical quantity and a combination of other physical quantities.