A metric ton (t), also referred to as a "tonne," is a unit of mass in the metric system of units.
What is a metric ton
A metric ton is a unit of mass in the metric system of units that is equal to 1000 kilograms or 2204.622 pounds. It is accepted for use in the International System of Units (SI), but is not an SI unit. It is referred to by many different names, which can lead to some confusion. The list below clarifies the use of the term "metric ton" along with its other names.
- Metric ton - this term is most typically used in the United States in order to differentiate it from the US definition of the ton (referred to as simply a "ton" in the US or a "short ton").
- Tonne - this term is used in most countries outside of the United States and refers specifically to a mass equal to 1000 kilograms; this is the most common way to refer to a mass of 1000 kilograms.
- Megagram - this is the official term for a mass equal to 1000 kilograms in the International System of Units. Although this is the official term, it is very rarely used, with most countries using "tonne" instead. Using "megagram" will likely be met with confusion and most people will not relate the unit to any form of a ton.
To further complicate the matter, there are also a few different types of tons. Recall that all of the terms above refer to a mass of 1000 kilograms. However, both the US customary and imperial systems of units also have their own definitions of a ton equal to a different mass.
Types of tons
There are three types of tons that are used to some degree around the world: the metric ton, short (US customary) ton, and long (imperial) ton.
- Metric ton - the metric ton is the only version of the ton that is accepted for use in SI and is therefore the most commonly used version of the ton in the world.
- Short ton - the short ton originates from the US customary system. It is used in the US alongside the metric ton, but is not really used outside of the US and its territories. The short ton is the smallest definition of the ton, hence why it is referred to as the "short" ton.
- Long ton - the long ton originates from the imperial system. Even in the UK and other countries that use the imperial system, the long ton is very rarely used. In these countries, using the metric ton is much more common since most countries outside of the US have adopted SI as the official system of measurement. The long ton is the largest definition of the ton, hence why it is referred to as the "long" ton.
The different tons are differentiated by the mass they represent. Below are the definitions of each ton in terms of kilograms and pounds:
1 metric ton = 1000 kg = 2204.622 lb
1 short ton = 907.18474 kg = 2000 lb
1 long ton = 1016.0469 kg = 2240 lb
The various definitions of the ton are all abbreviated as "t." As such, it is important to know which definition of the ton is being used, or to specify which version is being used so as to not confuse their values in the metric, US customary, or imperial systems of measurement.
Metric ton abbreviation
The official metric ton symbol is "t," but as mentioned above, this is the same symbol used for the other definitions of the ton. In the US, there are some other symbols used for the metric ton such as mt, MT, and Mt. However, these abbreviations can be problematic because they also more typically refer to other units of measurement. For example, "T" is the symbol for tesla, the unit of magnetic flux density. Also, in the International system of units, "m" preceding a unit indicates the prefix "milli-" while "M" preceding a unit indicates the prefix "Mega-". Thus, the aforementioned units can have the following meanings:
- mt = metric ton = millitonne
- Mt = metric ton = Megatonne
- MT = metric ton = Mega tesla
In general, best practice is to simply use "t" and to additionally specify which version of the ton you are referring to in order to avoid any potential for confusion.
Convert metric tons
Below are some conversions of metric tons to other units of mass.
Metric ton to short ton
1 metric ton is equal to 1.10231 short tons (US tons). To convert metric tons to short tons, multiply by 1.10231.
Metric tons to kilograms
1 metric ton is equal to 1000 kilograms. To convert metric tons to kilograms, multiply by 1000.
Metric tons to pounds
1 metric ton is equal to 2204.62 pounds. To convert metric tons to pounds, multiply by 2204.62.
Metric ton to long ton
1 metric ton is equal to 0.984207 long (imperial) tons. To convert metric tons to long tons, multiply by 0.984207.
Metric tons to stones
1 metric ton is equal to 157.473 stones. To convert metric tons to stones, multiply by 157.473.
Did you know??
Metric tons are defined based on the kilogram, while US and imperial tons are defined based on the pound. This is why they have round values when defined using units in their respective systems of measurement.