I'm trying to translate an old (1972) German scientific paper and there's a unit for measuring bacteria concentrations in water that I can't work out the English equivalent of. "ccm", with values between 180-8000 in this paper (measured near graves in a groundwater-logged cemetery, for what it's worth).

I wondered if it might be equivalent to cfu/mL (colony forming units) or a related unit, but this seems to be translated as KBE (Koloniebildende Einheit). Have also checked the usual sources (LEO, google, wikipedia etc) and have had no luck. If anyone's able to help, I'd be very grateful!

Screenshot from paper:

  • 9
    ccm = cubic centimeter
    – peterh
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 2:59
  • 1
    This seems to be a typewriter-written document - In contemporary writing with a computer, this would most probably simply be cm²
    – tofro
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 6:20
  • 3
    Duden would have provided the answer easily.
    – guidot
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 6:58
  • 5
    @tofro That's square centimetres; it should be cm^3 Commented May 22, 2018 at 8:08
  • 1
    Back in the old days literally every kid knew ccm from playing Autoquartett card games. Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 17:45

1 Answer 1


Nowadays, most physical units are internationally standardized, and so are their abbreviations. This is the reason why also in Germany the cubic centimetre is abbreviated as ccm or cm3, and not, as one may erroneously deduce from the German word Kubikzentimeter, as kzm. You will find ccm more often than cm3 in texts written using a typewriter.


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