England badge English weights and measures Last edit: 05/May/2010
Quick Reference: Definitions of many Imperial (and older) units.

Acre
Unit of area, equal to 4840 square yards. Still very much in use.

Bag
Obscure unit of volume, equal to 24 gallons.

Barleycorn
Unit of length. Three to the inch. A very old measure, not used for centuries.

Barrel (beer)
Unit of volume, equal to 36 gallons, or 4 firkins. Still in use.

Barrel (wine)
Unit of volume, equal to 31.5 gallons. No longer in use

Barrel (oil)
A US measure, not English. Equals 42 US gallons.

British Thermal Unit, or Btu.
Unit of energy or work

Bucket
Obscure unit of volume, equal to 4 gallons.

Bushel
Unit of volume, equal to 8 gallons, or 4 pecks. Not in use much at all these days, but beware that the US bushel is different.

Butt
Unit of volume, usually for wine or beer. Can be 108 or 126 gallons, depending. No longer used.

Cable
Unit of length, at sea. Defined as 1 tenth of a nautical mile.

Chain
Unit of length, equal to 22 yards, which is the length of a cricket pitch. When I was at school, we were given such chains to measure things with - each chain made up of 100 links. There are 10 chains to the furlong. Not seen much these days, but still seen on not-so-old maps etc.

Clove
Obscure unit of weight, equal to 7 pounds (av.)

Drachm (fluid)
Unit of volume, equal to 60 minims. 8 fluid drachms to the fluid ounce.

Dram [also spelled as Drachm] (avoirdupois)
Unit of weight. 16 drams to the (av.) ounce.

Dram [also spelled as Drachm] (troy)
Unit of weight. Equal to 60 grains. 8 drams to the (troy) ounce.

Ell
Unit of length. Very, very old. The English ell should be taken as 45 inches, or a yard and a quarter, and the Scots ell is 37 Scots inches, or 72.2 English inches. Very much not used.

Fathom
Unit of length, or rather depth, equal to 6 feet. Still encountered.

Firkin
Unit of volume, especially beer. Equals 9 gallons. Extremely popular in pub names!

Foot
Unit of length. 12 inches, 3 feet to the yard. Very, very common.

Furlong
Unit of length, equal to 220 yards, or 10 chains. There are 8 furlongs to the mile. The name seems to derive from the length of a furrow, somehow. This unit is still used, especially so in horse-racing.

Gallon
Unit of volume. Equal to 8 pints. The Imperial gallon was defined in the act of 1824 as the volume of 10lb of water at 62°F. Before this, the gallon was redefined over the years (especially around the time of the American revolution) with consequent problems for our colonial cousins, which is why we have 8 of our gallons to one of our bushels, but the Americans have 9.309177 of their gallons (or 7.751512 of ours) to one of their bushels. To get around this, they have a dry gallon and a liquid gallon, which are different. To summarise:
 Imperial gallon277.4194 cubic inches
 US dry gallon 268.8025 cubic inches
 US liquid gallon231 cubic inches


Gill
Unit of volume. Normally taken as a quarter of a pint, it can also be a third or a half pint, especially in conversation. The legal definition is a 1/4 of a pint. The word Gill is pronouced with a hard G (as Jill).

Grain
The basic unit of weight in the imperial system. There are 5760 grains to the Troy pound, and 7000 to the avoirdupois pound.

Hand
Unit of length, or normally height, equal to 4 inches. Still (almost) universally used in England to measure horses.

Hogshead
Unit of volume (wine only). 52.5 gallons. Until 1824 it was 63 gallons, a figure still used by the Americans.

Horsepower (common)
A unit of power. Equal to 33000 foot-pound-force per minute. Very much in use today.

Horsepower (RAC)
A strange unit, used only to tax cars in the first decades to the 20th century. It was based on the cylinder diameter, not the swept volume or power, which seems to have inspired W O Bentley at least to design long-stroke engines to get them into a lower taxation class.

Horsepower (misc.)
There are all sorts of other horsepowers (boiler, metric, electric, metric etc.) - beware!

Hundredweight
Unit of weight, equal to 8 stones. 20 hundredweight to a ton. This unit is commonly abbreviated to 'cwt'.

Hundredweight (short)
Unit of weight, not much used in England, but apparently used still in the US. Equals 100 pounds, 20 to the Short ton.

Inch
Very basic unit of length. 12 to the foot. Very much in use.

Kilderkin
Obscure unit of volume, equal to 18 gallons.

Kip
Obscure unit of force - equal to 1000 pound-force.

Knot
Unit of speed or velocity, equal to 1 nautical mile per hour. Universally used to control the speed of ships and aircraft.

Last
Very obscure unit of volume - equal to 640 gallons.

League
Unit of length. Equal to 3 miles, so a league at sea is different to a league on land. Much used by poets, but nobody else.

Lb
The abbreviation used for 'pound'. It comes from the Latin word Libra which translates to 'pound'. This is where the fancy 'L' comes from when talking about the pound sterling (i.e. the unit of currency in the UK).

Line
Unit of length. Some authorities (generally American) say 10 lines to the inch, and some say 12. This seems to be a printing term.

Link
Unit of length, there being 100 links to a chain. Virtually never seen these days.

Mil
Unit of length. Shown as 1/1000 of an inch in some books, I have never known anyone use this in England, as a millimetre (an obscure French measure) is known colloquially as a 'mill'. See thou. However, many friends from across the Atlantic have pointed out that the mill is very much in use in the US, for measuring paper, plastic (rubbish bags/garbage sacks etc.) and wire.

Mile (statute)
Unit of length, equal to 1760 yards, or 8 furlongs. This unit is universal in England for measuring distances between places etc., and is always used on road-signs (eg LONDON 180 miles) and speedometers (as in miles per hour), and consequently is always quoted by drivers when talking about fuel consumption (as in miles per gallon).

Mile (nautical)
Unit of length, normally at sea or in the air. Originally, the Admiralty fixed it at 6080 feet. This unit is universally used by international law by ships and aircraft, as is the derived unit of the knot.
In the 20th century, an international nautical mile was defined as 1852 metres, and so you will sometimes see the 6080ft nautical mile called the British nautical mile.

Minim
Unit of volume. 60 minims to the fluid ounce.

Nail
Obscure unit of length, equal to 2 and a quarter inches.

Noggin
Unit of volume - maybe a colloquism. Same as the gill. This word is quite often used in pubs etc. in certain parts of England, but not in a technical sense!

Ounce - avoirdupois
Unit of weigh, equal to 437.5 grains. 16 drams to the ounce, 16 ounces to the pound. This unit is still very much used in England.

Ounce - fluid
Unit of volume, equal to 8 fluid drachms. 20 fluid ounces = 1 pint. This unit is still used, especially in recipes.

Ounce - troy
Unit of weight, equal to 480 grains, or 24 scruples. or 20 pennyweights or 8 drams. 12 ounces to the pound.Used for weighing bullion, and as an apocatheries measure.

Pace
Obscure unit of length. Equal to 2.5 feet.

Palm
Obscure unit of length. Equal to 3 inches.

Peck
Unit of volume, equal to 2 gallons. Not much in use these days.

Pennyweight
Unit of weight, equal to 24 grains. There are 20 to the Troy ounce.

Perch
Old unit of length - same as rod and pole. 16.5 feet.

Pint
Unit of volume. The universal measure for beer. There are 20 fluid ounces to the pint, and 8 pints to the gallon. Different to US pints - beware!

Pole
Old unit of length - same as rod and perch. 16.5 feet.

Pound - avoirdupois
Unit of weight, equal to 7000 grains, or 16 avoirdupois ounces. 14 pounds = 1 stone. This unit is still very much used in England.

Pound - troy
Unit of weight, equal to 5760 grains, or 12 troy ounces. Used for weighing bullion, and as an apocatheries measure. The troy pound was outlawed in 1878.

Poundal
Unit of force. There are 32.174 to the pound-force (acceleration to to gravity being 32.174 feet per second per second).

Pound-force
Unit of force.

PSI
Unit of pressure - an abbreviation for pounds per square inch.

Puncheon
Obscure unit of volume - equal to 70 gallons.

Quart
Unit of volume, equal to 2 pints. 4 quarts = 1 gallon. The use of this unit has declined sharply over the last 20 years.

Quarter
Unit of weight, equal to 2 stones. 4 quarters = 1 hundredweight. General use of this unit seems to have died out around the time of WWII.

Quarter
Unit of volume, equal to 64 gallons.

Rod
Unit of length; It is 16.5 feet, which is strange even by English standards. It is better to define it in terms of the rood.

Rope
Obscure unit of length - equal to 20 feet.

Rood
Unit of area; an area of 1 furlong long by 1 rod wide, or 1210 square yards. There are 4 roods to the acre.

Rope
Obscure unit of length - equal to 20 feet.

Sack
Obscure unit of weight, equal to 26 stones.

Scruple
Unit of weight. Equals 20 grains. 3 to the Troy dram.

Scruple (fluid).
Unit of volume. Equals 20 minims.

Seam
Obscure unit of volume, equal to 64 gallons.

Slug
Strange unit of weight - equal to 32.174 pounds (av.) - see poundal.

Span
Obscure unit of length - equal to 9 inches.

Stone
Unit of weight, equal to 14 pounds (av.). Often used in England for weighing people. 8 stones = 1 hundredweight. Still quite common in England, although its use seems to be declining.

Thou
An unofficial unit of length - one thousandth of an inch.

Tod
An obscure unit of weight - same as the quarter.

Ton
Unit of weight, sometimes (especially in the US) known as a long ton. Equals 20 hundredweight, or 2240 pounds. Still very much in use.

Ton (register).
Unit of capacity - for measuring ships. 100 cubic feet.

Ton (short).
Unit of weight, especially in the US. Equals 2000 pounds, and therefore 20 'short' hundredweight.

Yard
Fundamental unit of length. 36 inches (or 3 feet) to the yard, 1760 yards to the statute mile.

Yard (of ale)
This is a drinking glass about 3 feet long, hence the name. It has a wide mouth, which narrows towards the closed end, where it terminates in a bulb. It is not easy to drink from! It holds about 2 pints.

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