mile


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Acronyms, Idioms, Wikipedia.
Related to mile: nautical mile

English units of measurement

English units of measurement, principal system of weights and measures used in a few nations, the only major industrial one being the United States. It actually consists of two related systems—the U.S. Customary System of units, used in the United States and dependencies, and the British Imperial System. The names of the units and the relationships between them are generally the same in both systems, but the sizes of the units differ, sometimes considerably.

Customary Units of Weights and Measures

Units of Weight

The pound (lb) is the basic unit of weight (which is proportional to mass). Within the English units of measurement there are three different systems of weights. In the avoirdupois system, the most widely used of the three, the pound is divided into 16 ounces (oz) and the ounce into 16 drams. The ton, used to measure large masses, is equal to 2,000 lb (short ton) or 2,240 lb (long ton). In Great Britain the stone, equal to 14 lb, is also used. The troy system (named for Troyes, France, where it is said to have originated) is used only for precious metals. The troy pound is divided into 12 ounces and the troy ounce into 20 pennyweights or 480 grains; the troy pound is thus 5,760 grains. The grain is also a unit in the avoirdupois system, 1 avoirdupois pound being 7,000 grains, so that the troy pound is 5,760/7,000 of an avoirdupois pound. Apothecaries' weights are based on troy weights; in addition to the pound, ounce, and grain, which are equal to the troy units of the same name, other units are the dram (1/8 oz) and the scruple (1/24 oz or 1/3 dram).

Units of Length and Area

The basic unit of length is the yard (yd); fractions of the yard are the inch (1/36 yd) and the foot (1/3 yd), and commonly used multiples are the rod (51-2 yd), the furlong (220 yd), and the mile (1,760 yd). The acre, equal to 4,840 square yards or 160 square rods, is used for measuring land area.

Units of Liquid Measure

For liquid measure, or liquid capacity, the basic unit is the gallon, which is divided into 4 quarts, 8 pints, or 32 gills. The U.S. gallon, or wine gallon, is 231 cubic inches (cu in.); the British imperial gallon is the volume of 10 lb of pure water at 62℉ and is equal to 277.42 cu in. The British units of liquid capacity are thus about 20% larger than the corresponding American units. The U.S. fluid ounce is 1/16 of a U.S. pint; the British unit of the same name is 1/20 of an imperial pint and is thus slightly smaller than the U.S. fluid ounce.

Units of Dry Measure

For dry measure, or dry capacity, the basic unit is the bushel, which is divided into 4 pecks, 32 dry quarts, or 64 dry pints. The U.S. bushel, or Winchester bushel, is 2,150.42 cu in. and is about 3% smaller than the British imperial bushel of 2,219.36 cu in., with a similar difference existing between U.S. and British subdivisions. The barrel is a unit for measuring the capacity of larger quantities and has various legal definitions depending on the quantity being measured, the most common value being 105 dry quarts.

Differences between American and British Systems

Many American units of weights and measures are based on units in use in Great Britain before 1824, when the British Imperial System was established. Since the Mendenhall Order of 1893, the U.S. yard and pound and all other units derived from them have been defined in terms of the metric units of length and mass, the meter and the kilogram; thus, there was no longer any direct relationship between American units and British units of the same name. In 1959 an international agreement was reached among English-speaking nations to use the same metric equivalents for the yard and pound for purposes of science and technology; these values are 1 yd=0.9144 meter (m) and 1 lb=0.45359237 kilogram (kg). In the United States, the older definition of the yard as 3,600/3,937 m has continued to be used in many instances for surveying, the corresponding foot (1,200/3,937 m) being known as the survey foot; the survey foot will become obsolete in 2023.

The English units of measurement have many drawbacks: the complexity of converting from one unit to another, the differences between American and British units, the use of the same name for different units (e.g., ounce for both weight and liquid capacity, quart and pint for both liquid and dry capacity), and the existence of three different systems of weights (avoirdupois, troy, and apothecaries'). Because of these disadvantages and because of the wide use of the much simpler metric system in most other parts of the world, there have been proposals to do away with the U.S. Customary System and replace it with the metric system.

Bibliography

See L. J. Chisholm, Units of Weights and Measure: International and U.S. Customary (U.S. National Bureau of Standards, 1967).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mile

 

a measure of length used in the national nonmetric systems of units; now used mainly in navigation.

The USSR and most other countries use the nautical mile, which, according to the International Hydrographic Conference of 1929, is equal to 1.852 km, or the average length of 1’ of the arc of a meridian. One nautical mile is equal to 10 cable lengths.

In Great Britain 1 nautical mile equals 1.853184 km, and 1 statute land mile equals 1.609344 km (it is also used in the USA). A geographic mile (German) is equal to 1/15° of the equator, or 7.4204 km. The old Russian mile was equal to 7.46760 km; the old Roman mile, to 1.481 km.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

mile

[mīl]
(mechanics)
A unit of length in common use in the United States, equal to 5280 feet, or 1609.344 meters. Abbreviated mi. Also known as land mile; statute mile.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

mile

1. a unit of length used in the U.K., the US, and certain other countries, equal to 1760 yards. 1 mile is equivalent to 1.609 34 kilometres
3. See Swedish mile
4. any of various units of length used at different times and places, esp the Roman mile, equivalent to 1620 yards
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in classic literature ?
At the depth of two hundred and forty miles our nostrils were assailed by almost overpowering ammonia fumes, and the temperature had dropped to TEN BELOW ZERO!
At four hundred miles the temperature had reached 153 degrees.
For another hour I saw that pitiless column of mercury rise and rise until at four hundred and ten miles it stood at 153 degrees.
At four hundred and twenty miles I took another reading.
The two parties continued together, without material impediment, for three or four hundred miles further up the Columbia; Mr.
Stuart again pushed forward, under guidance of the two Indians, nor did he stop until he had arrived within about one hundred and forty miles of the Spokan River, which he considered near enough to keep the rival establishment in check.
I cannot reckon the distance she made under three hundred miles during this unlucky day, November the 6th.
At ten minutes to eleven in the evening, the electric light reappeared three miles to windward of the frigate, as pure, as intense as during the preceding night.
If suc be the case, and the vulture is on the wing at a height o between three and four thousand feet, before it could com within the range of vision, its distance in a straight lin from the beholder's eye, would be rather more than tw British miles. Might it not thus readily be overlooked When an animal is killed by the sportsman in a lonely valley may he not all the while be watched from above by th sharp-sighted bird?
The first of thes erratic boulders which I noticed, was sixty-seven miles distant from the nearest mountain; another which I measure was five yards square, and projected five feet above th gravel.
We wer now one hundred and forty miles distant from the Atlantic and about sixty from the nearest arm of the Pacific.
On March 1st, 1833, and again on March 16th, 1834, th Beagle anchored in Berkeley Sound, in East Falkland Island This archipelago is situated in nearly the same latitude wit the mouth of the Strait of Magellan; it covers a space o one hundred and twenty by sixty geographical miles, and is little more than half the size of Ireland.