In a mercury thermometer, a glass tube is filled with mercury and a standard temperature scale is marked on the tube. With changes in temperature, the mercury expands and contracts, and the temperature can be read from the scale. Mercury thermometers can be used to determine body, liquid, and vapor temperature.
The alcohol thermometer or spirit thermometer is an alternative to the mercury-in-glass thermometer and has similar functions. Unlike the mercury-in-glass thermometer, the contents of an alcohol thermometer are less toxic and will evaporate quickly. The ethanol version is the most widely used due to the low cost and relatively low hazard posed by the liquid in case of breakage.