Momentum can be defined as "mass in motion." All objects have mass; so if an object is moving, then it has momentum - it has its mass in motion. The amount of momentum that an object has is dependent upon two variables: how much stuff is moving and how fast the stuff is moving. Momentum depends upon the variables mass and velocity. In terms of an equation, the momentum of an object is equal to the mass of the object times the velocity of the object.

The units for momentum would be mass units times velocity units. The standard metric unit of momentum is the kg•m/s. While the kg•m/s is the standard metric unit of momentum, there are a variety of other units that are acceptable (though not conventional) units of momentum. Examples include kg•mi/hr, kg•km/hr, and g•cm/s. In each of these examples, a mass unit is multiplied by a velocity unit to provide a momentum unit. This is consistent with the equation for momentum.

From the definition of momentum, it becomes obvious that an object has a large momentum if either its mass or its velocity is large. Both variables are of equal importance in determining the momentum of an object. Consider a Mack truck and a roller skate moving down the street at the same speed. The considerably greater mass of the Mack truck gives it a considerably greater momentum. Yet if the Mack truck were at rest, then the momentum of the least massive roller skate would be the greatest. The momentum of any object that is at rest is 0. Objects at rest do not have momentum - they do not have any "mass in motion." Both variables - mass and velocity - are important in comparing the momentum of two objects.

Definition Provided by Physics Classroom