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Miles vs. Kilometers: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 22, 2023
Miles and kilometers are units of length; a mile is longer, equal to about 1.609 kilometers.

Key Differences

Miles and kilometers are both units used to measure distance. Miles are primarily used in countries like the United States and United Kingdom, representing a longer distance than a kilometer. A kilometer, part of the metric system, is more commonly used worldwide and is shorter in comparison to a mile.
When converting distances, understanding the difference between miles and kilometers is crucial. One mile equals approximately 1.609 kilometers, which highlights the larger length of a mile compared to a kilometer. Conversely, a kilometer is equal to about 0.6214 miles, showcasing its smaller scale.
Historical origins of miles and kilometers differ significantly. The mile has ancient roots, historically based on the length of 1,000 Roman paces, while the kilometer, a newer unit, was introduced during the French Revolution as part of the metric system, designed for universal ease of use.
In sports and athletics, miles and kilometers are often used to mark distances. Marathons, commonly measured in kilometers, help illustrate the longer range of a mile when comparing race distances. This difference is also seen in vehicle speedometers, with some showing both miles and kilometers per hour.
In everyday language, miles and kilometers also differ in their colloquial use. Phrases like “miles away” in English can imply a great distance or difference, not necessarily literal. In contrast, kilometers are less frequently used in idiomatic expressions but are a standard in scientific and precise measurements.

Comparison Chart


1 mile = 1.609 km
1 km = 0.6214 miles


Predominantly in the US and UK
Widely used worldwide


Imperial system
Metric system

In Athletics

Used for longer distances
Used for shorter distances

Conversion Factor

Larger unit
Smaller unit

Miles and Kilometers Definitions


A mile is a unit of length equal to 5,280 feet.
The park is two miles away from my house.


A kilometer is a metric unit of length equal to 1,000 meters.
The next town is 5 kilometers away.


In nautical terms, a mile equals 1,852 meters.
The ship sailed 10 nautical miles.


Often used to measure shorter distances than miles.
He ran a 10-kilometer race.


A mile can be a significant distance or difference.
Their opinions are miles apart.


In geography, used to describe the distance between locations.
The two cities are 300 kilometers apart.


Used to emphasize a great amount or degree.
She's miles better at chess than I am.


Commonly used in countries that follow the metric system.
The speed limit is 60 kilometers per hour.


Abbr. mi. or mi A unit of length equal to 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards (1,609 meters), used in the United States and other English-speaking countries. Also called land mile, statute mile. See Table at measurement.


In scientific contexts, denotes a precise measure of distance.
The comet passed Earth at a distance of 400,000 kilometers.


A nautical mile.


A metric unit of length equal to 1,000 meters (0.62 mile). See Table at measurement.


An air mile.


Plural of kilometer


(Sports) A race that is one mile long.


A relatively great distance
Had to walk for miles in the airport.


Plural of mile


(informal) A great distance in space or time.
His final shot missed the bullseye by miles.
From the top of the hill you can see for miles.
No need to hurry. The deadline is miles away.


Much; a lot used to emphasise a comparative
Her new paintings are miles better than her older ones.


Informally, a mile can mean a very long way.
We walked miles to find a restaurant.


What countries primarily use miles?

The United States and the United Kingdom predominantly use miles.

How many feet are in a mile?

There are 5,280 feet in a mile.

What is a kilometer?

A kilometer is a metric unit of length equal to 1,000 meters.

Is a mile longer than a kilometer?

Yes, a mile is longer than a kilometer.

What is a mile?

A mile is a unit of length, approximately equal to 1.609 kilometers.

How is a mile used in navigation?

In navigation, a nautical mile, different from a land mile, is used.

How many kilometers are in a mile?

There are about 1.609 kilometers in a mile.

Are miles and kilometers used in athletics?

Yes, both units are used in athletics for different race distances.

Can miles and kilometers be converted?

Yes, they can be converted using the factor 1 mile = 1.609 kilometers.

Is the kilometer widely used globally?

Yes, the kilometer is widely used worldwide, except in a few countries like the US.

Are miles used in scientific measurements?

Miles are less commonly used in scientific measurements compared to kilometers.

What system does the kilometer belong to?

The kilometer is part of the metric system.

Do speedometers show both miles and kilometers?

Some vehicle speedometers show both miles per hour and kilometers per hour.

What is a nautical mile?

A nautical mile is a unit used in maritime navigation, equal to 1,852 meters.

Do maps use miles or kilometers?

Maps may use either miles or kilometers, depending on the country or context.

Is the mile still used in the UK after metrication?

Yes, the mile is still used in the UK for road distances.

What system does the mile belong to?

The mile is part of the imperial system.

Are miles and kilometers interchangeable?

They are not interchangeable but can be converted to each other.

Are kilometers used in colloquial expressions?

Kilometers are less commonly used in idiomatic expressions compared to miles.

What is the historical origin of the mile?

The mile originated from the Roman measurement mille passus, meaning a thousand paces.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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