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Femto (symbol f) is a unit prefix in the metric system denoting a factor of 10−15. It was added to the International System of Units (SI) in 1964.[1] It is derived from the Danish word femten, meaning "fifteen", which has a vaguely similar spelling to fermi, which was introduced earlier to mean a femtometer.

Examples of use:

The femtometre shares the unit symbol (fm) with the older non-SI unit fermi, to which it is equivalent. The fermi, named in honour of Enrico Fermi, is often encountered in nuclear physics.

Prefix Base 10 Decimal English word Adoption[nb 1] Etymology
Name Symbol Short scale Long scale Language Source word
yotta Y 1024 1000000000000000000000000 septillion quadrillion 1991 Latin eight[nb 2]
zetta Z 1021 1000000000000000000000 sextillion trilliard 1991 Latin seven[nb 2]
exa E 1018 1000000000000000000 quintillion trillion 1975 Greek six
peta P 1015 1000000000000000 quadrillion billiard 1975 Greek five[nb 2]
tera T 1012 1000000000000 trillion billion 1960 Greek four,[nb 2] monster
giga G 109 1000000000 billion milliard 1960 Greek giant
mega M 106 1000000 million 1873 Greek great
kilo k 103 1000 thousand 1795 Greek thousand
hecto h 102 100 hundred 1795 Greek hundred
deca da 101 10 ten 1795 Greek ten
100 1 one
deci d 10−1 0.1 tenth 1795 Latin ten
centi c 10−2 0.01 hundredth 1795 Latin hundred
milli m 10−3 0.001 thousandth 1795 Latin thousand
micro μ[nb 3] 10−6 0.000001 millionth 1873 Greek small
nano n 10−9 0.000000001 billionth milliardth 1960 Greek dwarf
pico p 10−12 0.000000000001 trillionth billionth 1960 Spanish peak, a little bit
femto f 10−15 0.000000000000001 quadrillionth billiardth 1964 Danish fifteen, Fermi[nb 4]
atto a 10−18 0.000000000000000001 quintillionth trillionth 1964 Danish eighteen
zepto z 10−21 0.000000000000000000001 sextillionth trilliardth 1991 Latin seven[nb 2]
yocto y 10−24 0.000000000000000000000001 septillionth quadrillionth 1991 Latin eight[nb 2]
  1. ^ Prefixes adopted before 1960 already existed before SI. The introduction of the CGS system was in 1873.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Part of the beginning of the prefix was modified from the word it was derived from, e.g.: "peta" (prefix) vs "penta" (source word).
  3. ^ The abbreviation mcg is often used in medicine instead of μg to prevent confusion with mg, which can lead to overdoses. A lower case u is often used instead of μ where the latter character is unavailable.
  4. ^ The fermi was introduced earlier with the symbol "fm", which prompted the reinterpretation of the "f" as a prefix to "m", with femto being derived from the Danish word femten.


  1. ^ "Resolution 8 of the 12th CGPM". International Bureau of Weights and Measures. 1964. Retrieved 2020-05-14.