As in:

He broke the world record of 14.05

I tried searching Wikipedia and ended up with centisecond. It sounds so scientific. What is it called in colloquial English?

  • 6
    It's a tenth or hundredth of a second, not a percent
    – simchona
    Aug 28, 2012 at 5:54
  • 3
    He broke the world record of fourteen and five hundredths of a second.
    – Jim
    Aug 28, 2012 at 5:58
  • I might like to add that I frequently hear uninformed people refer to the smallest shown unit as "milliseconds", be it in reality a hundredth or a thousandth. I myself used to make this mistake fairly often.
    – Ledda
    Jan 6, 2014 at 6:20

5 Answers 5


Centisecond, while valid, is an extremely rarely used unit, as is hectometer or decaliter.

You either measure "hundredths of second" or tens of milliseconds. In engineering, milliseconds are preferable. In sports hundredths are the defacto standard; as Jim said: fourteen and five hundredths of a second.

  • 3
    Not convinced... OK, commentators often get it wrong, but when Usain Bolt won the 100m they refered to his time as nine point six three seconds - beating Yohan Blake by twelve hundredths of a second
    – Andrew
    Aug 28, 2012 at 10:55
  • 2
    @Andrew: The "point X X" spoken notation is very common (probably quite more common than "hundredths") when presenting the actual result, but it isn't naming the unit. OP's question was "what is it called?" and in sport it's called "hundredths" or "hundredths of second" and nothing else, and that's what's used when the unit needs to be named: "Faster by a couple hundredths of second", not "faster by point oh few" or "by a few point oh ones".
    – SF.
    Aug 28, 2012 at 11:32
  • fair point... I was focussing on the quoted text, rather than the question :)
    – Andrew
    Aug 28, 2012 at 12:07
  • 1
    deciliter is used very commonly in science and medicine. Many blood test results are reported in (m)g/dl. Jan 6, 2014 at 4:18
  • All right. I changed that to decaliters which really seems to be totally obscure. (by the way, milliliters is more common by an order of magnitude. Probably because you buy 100ml of vodka, not 1dl :)
    – SF.
    Jan 6, 2014 at 6:26

I don't know anyone who would call this a five centiseconds... 50 milliseconds maybe.

It would normally be pronounced fourteen point oh-five seconds.

Edited to add: Differences maybe given in hundredths of a second.


Whatever you wish to call the unit (I normally call it a hundredth of a second), you seem to be confused about measurement. The record is 14.05 seconds, or if you prefer, 1,405 centiseconds/hundredths of a second.


Strictly speaking, it is correct to say that one hundredth of a second = 1 centisecond as explained below although the word "centisecond" is rarely used in common language.

It will help to first understand that ..., micro, milli, centi, deci, deka, hecto, kilo, mega, giga, ... etc. are nothing but some of the most commonly used mathematical prefixes of Metric/SI System to arithmetically modify the magnitude of basic units of measurement wherein,

milli = one thousandth (1/1000)
centi = one hundredth (1/100)
deci = one tenth (1/10)
deka = ten times (10)
hecto = one hundred times (100)
kilo = one thousand times (1000)
and so on.

When these prefixes are attached with any unit, they modify the magnitude of that unit by their respective values as shown above. So, 1 centimeter = one hundredth (1/100) of a meter, 1 centigram = one hundredth (1/100) of a gram, 1 centisecond = one hundredth (1/100) of a second, although centigram and centisecond are hardly used.

Similarly, 1 kilometer = one thousand (1000) meter, 1 kilogram = one thousand (1000) gram, 1 kiloliter = one thousand (1000) liter.

So, as far as the question of using a single word for "one hundredth of second" is concerned, we are left with only two choices: either we all agree to start calling it "centisecond" (and why not, when we already use terms like millisecond, microsecond, nanosecond etc?) or continue to call it "one-hundredth of a second" because we are too afraid and/or prejudiced and/or conservative to use an uncommon term like "centisecond"!

Additional Note:
(1) Note the significance of the two prefixes "deci" and "deka". They are sort of "landmark" prefixes in the table of prefixes because all other prefixes including "deci" and beyond viz centi, milli, micro, ... etc indicate values smaller than 1. Likewise, all other prefixes including "deka" and beyond viz hecto, kilo, mega, ... etc indicate values greater than 1.

(2) When someone is reading 14.05 second as "fourteen point oh five second", it should be understood that the two digits "05" pronounced together after the "point" automatically mean "hundredth" in the Decimal System of Numeration that we follow worldwide.

(3) To distinguish that one is reading / saying that part of the number which is lesser than 1 basic unit, the digits following the decimal point are pronounced one by one. So, the number 12.35 is pronounced as "twelve point three five" and not "twelve point thirty-five".


'jiffy' NYTimes mini-crossword Sept 9, 2020.

The term "jiffy" is sometimes used in computer animation as a method of defining playback rate, with the delay interval between individual frames specified in 1/100th-of-a-second (10 ms) jiffies, particularly in Autodesk Animator .FLI sequences (one global frame frequency setting) and animated Compuserve .GIF images (each frame having an individually defined display time measured in 1/100 s).

  • 1
    Whoever downvoted this should know that a jiffy is indeed .01 seconds: Farlex Trivia Dictionary.
    – Robusto
    Sep 9, 2020 at 16:46
  • Why does it deserve downvotes? Sep 9, 2020 at 16:51
  • I did not downvote and it's a useful piece of information but it is - apparently - very specialised and the fact that it is in the "trivia" dictionary, give the feeling that it's use is more than rare. The common meaning of "jiffy" is: (OED:) Jiffy A very short space of time: only in such phrases as in a jiffy, in a trice. - 1785 Munchhausen's Trav. (1792) xxiii. 96 In six jiffies I found myself and all my retinue..at the rock of Gibralter.
    – Greybeard
    Sep 9, 2020 at 17:05

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