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SI prefixes

See also prefixes for binary multiples adopted by the IEC.

The 20 SI prefixes used to form decimal multiples and submultiples of SI units are given in Table 5.

Table 5.  SI prefixes

Factor Name  Symbol
1024 yotta Y
1021 zetta Z
1018 exa E
1015 peta P
1012 tera T
109 giga G
106 mega M
103 kilo k
102 hecto h
101 deka da
Factor Name  Symbol
10-1 deci d
10-2 centi c
10-3 milli m
10-6 micro µ
10-9 nano n
10-12 pico p
10-15 femto f
10-18 atto a
10-21 zepto z
10-24 yocto y

It is important to note that the kilogram is the only SI unit with a prefix as part of its name and symbol. Because multiple prefixes may not be used, in the case of the kilogram the prefix names of Table 5 are used with the unit name "gram" and the prefix symbols are used with the unit symbol "g." With this exception, any SI prefix may be used with any SI unit, including the degree Celsius and its symbol °C.

Example 1: 10-6 kg = 1 mg (one milligram), but not 10-6 kg = 1 µkg (one microkilogram)
Example 2: Consider the earlier example of the height of the Washington Monument. We may write hW = 169 000 mm = 16 900 cm = 169 m = 0.169 km using the millimeter (SI prefix milli, symbol m), centimeter (SI prefix centi, symbol c), or kilometer (SI prefix kilo, symbol k).

Because the SI prefixes strictly represent powers of 10, they should not be used to represent powers of 2. Thus, one kilobit, or 1 kbit, is 1000 bit and not 210 bit = 1024 bit. To alleviate this ambiguity, prefixes for binary multiples have been adopted by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) for use in information technology.

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