League (unit)

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A league is a unit of length. It was common in Europe and Latin America, but is no longer an official unit in any nation. The word originally meant the distance a person could walk in an hour.[ citation needed ] Since the Middle Ages, many values have been specified in several countries.


Different definitions

Ancient Rome

The league was used in Ancient Rome, defined as 1 12 Roman miles (7 500 Roman feet, modern 2.2 km or 1.4 miles). The origin is the leuga Gallica(also: leuca Callica), the league of Gaul. [1]


The Argentine league (legua) is 5.572 km (3.462 mi) or 6 666 varas: 1 vara is 0.83 m (33 in). [2]

English-speaking world

On land, the league is most commonly defined as three miles, though the length of a mile could vary from place to place and depending on the era. At sea, a league is three nautical mile s (3.452 miles; 5.556 kilometres). English usage also included many of the other leagues mentioned below (for example, in discussing the Treaty of Tordesillas).


The French lieue – at different times – existed in several variants: 10 000, 12 000, 13 200 and 14 400 French feet, about 3.25 to 4.68 km (2.02 to 2.91 miles). It was used along with the metric system for a while but is now long discontinued.

A metric lieue was used in France from 1812 to 1840, with 1 metric lieue being exactly 4 000 m, or 4 km (about 2.5 mi). [3] It is this unit that is mentioned both in the title and the body text of Jules Verne's novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870). [4]


Perhaps in some rural parts of Mexico, the league (Spanish legua) is still used in the original sense of the distance that can be covered on foot in an hour, so that a league along a good road on level ground is a greater distance than a league on a difficult path over rough terrain. [5]

Portuguese-speaking world

In Portugal, Brazil and other parts of the former Portuguese Empire, there were several units called league (Portuguese: légua ):

The names of the several léguas referred to the number of units that made the length corresponding to an angle degree of a meridian arc.

As a transitory measure, after Portugal adopted the metric system, the metric légua, of 5.0 km, was used.

In Brazil, the légua is still used occasionally, where it has been described as about 6.6 km.


9 leguas a Avila in geographical league Fuente em Gredos.jpg
9 leguas a Ávila in geographical league

The legua or Spanish league was originally understood as equivalent to 3 millas (Spanish miles). [6] This varied depending on local standards for the pie (Spanish foot) and on the precision of measurement, but was officially equivalent to 4 180 metres (2.6 miles) before the legua was abolished by Philip II in 1568. It remains in use in parts of Latin America, where its exact meaning varies.

In the early Hispanic settlements of New Mexico, Texas, California, and Colorado, a league was also a unit of area, defined as 25 million square varas or about 4 428.4 acres. [8] This usage of league is referenced frequently in the Texas Constitution. So defined, a league of land would encompass a square that is one Spanish league on each side.

Comparison table

A comparison of the different lengths for a "league", in different countries and at different times in history, is given in the table below. Miles are also included in this list because of the linkage between the two units.

Length (m)NameWhere usedFromToDefinitionRemarks
1 482mille passus, milliariumRoman Empire Ancient Roman units of measurement
1 486.6miglio [9] Sicily
1 500Persian milePersia
1 524London mileEngland
1 609.3426(statute) mileGreat Britain159219591 760 yards Over the course of time, the length of a yard changed several times and consequently so did the English (and, from 1824, Imperial) mile. The statute mile was introduced in 1592 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I
1 609.344milesome Anglosaxon countries1959today1 760 yards On 1 July 1959 the imperial mile was standardized to an exact length in metres
1 609.3472(statute) mileUnited States1893today1 760 yards From 1959 also called the U.S. Survey Mile. From then its only utility has been land survey, before it was the standard mile. From 1893 its exact length in metres was: 3600/3937 × 1760
1 820Italy
1 852 nautical mile internationaltoday1 852 mSymbol: nmi; Abbreviation: NM
1 852.3(for comparison)1 meridian minute
1 853.181nautical mileTurkey
1 855.4(for comparison)1 equatorial minuteThough the NM was defined on the basis of the minute, it varies from the equatorial minute, because at that time people could only estimate the circumference of the equator to be 40 000 km.
2 065Portugal
2 220Gallo-Roman league Gallo-Roman culture 1 12 milesUnder the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus, this replaced the Roman mile as the official unit of distance in the Gallic and Germanic provinces, although there were regional and temporal variations. [10]
2 470Sardinia, Piemont
2 622Scotland
2 880Ireland
3 780Flanders
3 898French lieue (post league)France2 000 "body lengths"
4 000general or metric league
4 000legueGuatemala
4 179.4legua antigua
(old league)
4 190legueMexico [11] = 2500 tresas = 5000 varas
4 444.8landleuge125° of a circle of longitude
4 452.2lieue communeFrance Units of measurement in France before the French Revolution
4 513legueParaguay
4 513leguaChile, [11] (Guatemala, Haiti)= 36 cuadros = 5 400 varas
4 531WegstundeSaxony [12] 172218401 000 Dresden rodsintroduced on occasion of a countrywide road survey
4 808Switzerland
4 828English land leagueEngland3 miles
4 800
Germanic rasta, also doppelleuge
(double league)
5 000légua novaPortugal [11]
5 196leguaBolivia [11] = 40 ladres
5 152legua argentinaArgentina, Buenos Aires [11] = 6 000 varas
5 154legueUruguay
5 200Bolivian leguaBolivia
5 370legueVenezuela
5 500Portuguese léguaPortugal
5 510legueEcuador
5 510Ecuadorian leguaEcuador
5 532.5Landleuge
(state league)
5 540legueHonduras
5 556Seeleuge (nautical league)120° of a circle of longitude
3 nautical miles
5 570leguaSpain and Chile Spanish customary units
5 572leguaColombia [11] = 3 Millas
5 572.7leguePeru [11] = 20 000 feet
5 572.7legua antigua
old league
Spain [11] = 3 millas = 15 000 feet
5 590léguaBrazil [11] = 5 000 varas = 2 500 bracas
5 600Brazilian léguaBrazil
5 685 Fersah (Turkish league)Ottoman Empire19334 Turkish milesDerived from Persian Parasang .
5 840 [13] Dutch mileNetherlands
6 197légua antigaPortugal [11] = 3 milhas = 24 estadios
6 277Luxembourg
6 280Belgium
6 687.24legua nueva
(new league)
Spain [11] 1766= 8 000 Varas
6 797Landvermessermeile
(state survey mile)
7 400Netherlands
7 409(for comparison)4 meridian minutes
7 419.2Kingdom of Hanover
7 419.4Duchy of Brunswick
7 420.4
7 420.439geographic mile115 equatorial grads
7 421.6(for comparison)4 equatorial minutes
7 448.7Württemberg
7 450Hohenzollern
7 467.6Russia7 werst Obsolete Russian units of measurement
7 480Bohemia
7 500kleine / neue Postmeile
(small/new postal mile)
Saxony1840 German Empire, North German Confederation, Grand Duchy of Hesse, Russia
7 532.5Land(es)meile
(German state mile)
Denmark, Hamburg, Prussia primarily for Denmark defined by Ole Rømer
7 585.9Postmeile
(post mile)
Austria-Hungary Austrian units of measurement
7 850 Romania
8 800Schleswig-Holstein
8 888.89Baden
9 062average Post- or Polizeimeile
(middle post mile or police mile)
Saxony [12] 1722
9 206.3Electorate of Hesse
9 261.4(for comparison)5 meridian minutes
9 277(for comparison)5 equatorial minutes
9 323alte Landmeile
(old state mile)
9 347alte Landmeile
(old state mile)
9 869.6Oldenburg
10 000metric mile, Scandinavian mile Scandinaviastill commonly used today, e.g. for road distances.; equates to the myriametre
10 044große Meile
(great mile)
10 670peninkulmaFinland1887
10 688.54milSweden1889
11 113.7(for comparison)6 meridian minutes
11 132.4(for comparison)6 equatorial minutes
11 295milNorway1889was equivalent to 3 000 Rhenish rods.

Similar units:

See also

Related Research Articles

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The klafter is an historical unit of length, volume and area that was used in Central Europe.

Earth's circumference is the distance around the Earth; around the poles it measures almost exactly 40,000 kilometres or 21,600 nautical miles due to the circumference being used to define those units of measurement.


  1. The Oxford English Dictionary
  2. Espasa-Calpe Dictionary, Argentina and Mexico Edition 1945: headword Legua
  3. François Cardarelli: Scientific Unit Conversion (Springer-Verlag London, 1999)
  4. Jules Verne: Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (1871), Part 2, Chapter VII
    "Aussi, notre vitesse fut-elle de vingt-cinq milles à l’heure, soit douze lieues de quatre kilomètres. Il va sans dire que Ned Land, à son grand ennui, dut renoncer à ses projets de fuite. Il ne pouvait se servir du canot entraîné à raison de douze à treize mètres par seconde. Quitter le Nautilus dans ces conditions, c’eût été sauter d’un train marchant avec cette rapidité, manœuvre imprudente s’il en fut."
    "Accordingly, our speed was twenty–five miles (that is, twelve four–kilometre leagues) per hour. Needless to say, Ned Land had to give up his escape plans, much to his distress. Swept along at the rate of twelve to thirteen metres per second, he could hardly make use of the skiff. Leaving the Nautilus under these conditions would have been like jumping off a train racing at this speed, a rash move if there ever was one." Translated by F. P. Walter
  5. Rani T. Alexander (2004). Yaxcabá and the Caste War of Yucatán: An Archaeological Perspective. UNM Press. p. 165. ISBN   978-0-8263-2962-2.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Spence, E. Lee.Spence's Guide to Shipwreck Research, p. 32. Narwhal Press (Charleston), 1997.
  7. Spence's Guide to Shipwreck Research, by Dr. E. Lee Spence, Narwhal Press, Charleston/Miami, © by Edward L. Spence, 1997, p. 32
  8. Vikki Gray (1998-12-24). "Land Measurement Conversion Guide". Vikki Gray. Archived from the original on 2007-06-08. Retrieved 2007-06-04.
  9. Leopold Carl Bleibtreu: Handbuch der Münz-, Maß- und Gewichtskunde und des Wechsel-Staatspapier-, Bank- und Aktienwesens europäischer und außereuropäischer Länder und Städte. Verlag von J. Engelhorn, Stuttgart, 1863, p. 332
  10. (in German) Pre-metric units of length
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Helmut Kahnt (1986), BI-Lexikon Alte Maße, Münzen und Gewichte (in German) (1 ed.), Leipzig: VEB Bibliographisches Institut, pp. 380
  12. 1 2 "Historie der Postsäulen" (in German). Forschungsgruppe Kursächsische Postmeilensäulen e.V. und 1. Sächsischer Postkutschenverein e.V. Archived from the original on February 5, 2017. Retrieved February 5, 2017.
  13. IKAR-Altkartendatenbank [ permanent dead link ] der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Kartenabteilung.