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The acceleration of a body $M$ is defined as the first derivative of the velocity of $M$ relative to a given point of reference with respect to time:

$\mathbf a = \dfrac {\mathrm d \mathbf v}{\mathrm d t}$

Colloquially, it is described as the rate of change of velocity.

It is important to note that as velocity is a vector quantity, then it follows by definition of derivative of a vector that so is acceleration.


Acceleration has dimension $L T^{-2}$.


  • The SI unit of acceleration is the metre per second squared $\mathrm m \ \mathrm s^{-2}$, or, less formally, $\mathrm m / \mathrm s^2$.
  • The CGS unit of acceleration is the centimetre per second $\mathrm {cm} \ \mathrm s^{-2}$, or, less formally, $\mathrm {cm} / \mathrm s^2$.


$1 \ \mathrm m \ \mathrm s^{-2} = 10^2 \ \mathrm {cm} \ \mathrm s^{-2} = 100 \ \mathrm {cm} \ \mathrm s^{-2}$

Also see

Linguistic Note

The word acceleration comes from the Latin for to add speed.

Historical Note

The first person to study the acceleration of a particle moving along a general curve was first studied by Leonhard Paul Euler.

He was also the first to treat acceleration as a vector.