# League (unit)

For other uses, see League (disambiguation).

A league is a unit of length (or, rarely, area). It was long common in Europe and Latin America, but it is no longer an official unit in any nation. The word originally meant the distance a person could walk in an hour.[1] Since the Middle Ages, many values have been specified in several countries.

## Different definitions

### English-speaking world

On land, the league was 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 was three nautical miles (about 5.6 km). English usage also included any of the other leagues mentioned below (for example, in discussing the Treaty of Tordesillas).

### Ancient Rome

The league was used in Ancient Rome, defined as 1.5 Roman miles (7,500 Roman feet, 2.2 km, 1.4 mi.). The origin is the "leuga gallica" (also: leuca Gallica), the league of Gaul.[2]

### Argentina

The Argentine league (legua) is 5.572 km (3.462 mi) or 6,666 varas: 1 vara is 0.83 m (33 in).[3]

### Brazil and Portugal

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

• Légua of 18 by degree = 6,172.4 metres
• Légua of 20 by degree = 5,555.56 metres (Maritime légua)
• Légua of 25 by degree = 4,444.44 metres

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

### France

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

As used in Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, a league is four kilometres.[4][5]

### Mexico

In Yucatán and other parts of rural Mexico, the league is still commonly 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.

### Spain

The legua or Spanish league was originally understood as equivalent to (Spanish miles).[6] This varied depending on local standards for the pie (Spanish foot) and on the precision with which the measurements were being made, but was officially equivalent to 4180 meters (2.6 miles) before the legua was abolished by Philip II in 1568. It remains in unofficial use in parts of Latin America, where its exact meaning varies.

• Legua nautica (nautical league): Between 1400 and 1600 the Spanish nautical league was equal to four Roman miles of 4 842 feet, making it 19 368 feet (5 903 meters or 3.1876 modern nautical miles). That seems pretty straight forward until one realizes that the accepted number of Spanish nautical leagues to a degree varied between 14 1/6 to 16 2/3 so in actual practice the length of a Spanish nautical league was 25 733 feet (7 843 meters or 4.235 modern nautical miles) to 21 874 feet (6 667 meters or 3.600 modern nautical miles) respectively.[6]
• Legua de por grado (league of the degree): From the 15th century through the early 17th century, the Spanish league of the degree was based on four Arabic miles. Although most contemporary accounts used an Arabic mile of 6 444 feet (1 964 meters), which gave a Spanish league of the degree of 25 776 feet (7 857 meters or 4.242 modern nautical miles) others defined an Arabic mile as just 6 000 feet making a Spanish league of the degree 24 000 feet (or 7315 meters, almost exactly 3.950 modern nautical miles).[7]
• Legua geographica or geográfica (geographical league): Starting around 1630 the Spanish geographical league was used as the official nautical measurement and continued so through the 1840s. Its use on Spanish charts did not become mandatory until 1718. It was four millias (miles) in length. From 1630 to 1718 a millia was 5 564 feet (1696 meters), making a geographical league of four millias to be 22 256 feet (6784 m or 3.663 modern nautical miles). But from 1718 through the 1830s the millia was defined as the equivalent of just over 5 210 feet, giving a shorter geographical league of just over 20 842 feet (6353 m or 3.430 modern nautical miles).[6]
• Legua marítima (maritime league): From around 1840 through the early 20th century, a Spanish marine league equaled 18 263.52 feet (5566.72 meters or 3.005 79 modern nautical miles), i.e. about 35 feet (10 meters) longer than our modern maritime league.[6]

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 (1 792.110 hectares).[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
01,482mille passus, milliariumRoman EmpireAncient Roman units of measurement
01,486.6miglio[9]Sicily
01,500Persian milePersia
01,524London mileEngland
01,609.3426(statute) mileGreat Britain159219591760 yardsOver the course of time, the length of a yard changed several times and consequently so did the English, and from 1824, the imperial mile. The statute mile was introduced in 1592 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I
01,609.344mileinternational1959today1760 yardsUntil 1 July 1959 the imperial mile was a standard length worldwide. The length given in metres is exact.
01,609.3472(statute) mileUSA1893today1760 yardsFrom 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 x 1760
01,820Italy
01,852nautical mileinternationaltoday1 minute of arcMeasured at a circumference of 40,000 km. Abbreviation: NM, nm
01,852.3(for comparison)1 meridian minute
01,853.181nautical mileTurkey
01,855.4(for comparison)1 equatorial minuteAlthough the NM was defined on the basis of the minute, it varies from the equatorial minute, because at that time the circumferences of the equator was only able to be estimated at 40,000 km
02,065Portugal
02,220Gallo-Roman leagueGallo-Roman culture1.5 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]
02,470Sardinia, Piemont
02,622Scotland
02,880Ireland
03,780Flanders
03,898French lieue (post league)France2000 "body lengths"
04,000general or metric league
04,000legueGuatemala
04,190legueMexico[11]= 2500 tresas = 5000 varas
04,444.8landleuge1/25° of a circle of longitude
04,452.2lieue communeFranceUnits of measurement in France before the French Revolution
04,513legueParaguay
04,513leguaChile,[11] (Guatemala, Haiti)= 36 cuadros = 5400 varas
04,808Switzerland
04,828English land leagueEngland3 miles
04,800
04,900
Germanic rasta, also doppelleuge
(double league)
05,000légua novaPortugal[11]
05,152legua argentinaArgentina, Buenos Aires[11]= 6000 varas
05,154legueUruguay
05,200Bolivian leguaBolivia
05,370legueVenezuela
05,500Portuguese leguaPortugal
05,532.5Landleuge
(state league)
Prussia
05,540legueHonduras
05,556Seeleuge (nautical league)1/20° of a circle of longitude
3 nautical miles
05,570leguaSpain and ChileSpanish customary units
05,572leguaKolumbien[11]= 3 Millas
05,572.7leguePeru[11]= 20,000 feet
05,572.7legua antigua
old league
Spain[11]= 3 millas = 15,000 feet
05,590léguaBrazil[11]= 5,000 varas = 2,500 bracas
05,600Brazilian leguaBrazil
05,840[12]Dutch mileHolland
06,197légua antigaPortugal[11]= 3 milhas = 24 estadios
06,277Luxembourg
06,280Belgium
06,687.24legua nueva
new league, since 1766
Spain[11]= 8000 Varas
06,797Landvermessermeile
(state survey mile)
Saxony
07,400Netherlands
07,409(for comparison)4 meridian minutes
7,419.2Kingdom of Hanover
07,419.4Duchy of Brunswick
07,420.4
07,414,9
Bavaria
07,421.6(for comparison)4 equatorial minutes
07,448.7Württemberg
07,450Hohenzollern
07,467.6Russia7 werstObsolete Russian units of measurement
07,480Bohemia
07,500kleine / neue Postmeile
(small/new postal mile)
Saxony1840German Empire, North German Confederation, Grand Duchy of Hesse, Russia
07,532.5Land(es)meile
(German state mile)
Denmark, Hamburg, Prussiaprimarlly for Denmark defined by Ole Rømer
07,585.9Postmeile
(post mile)
Austro-HungaryAustrian units of measurement
07,850Romania
08,800Schleswig-Holstein
09,062mittlere Post- / Polizeimeile
(middle post mile or police mile)
Saxony1722
09,206.3Electorate of Hesse
09,261.4(for comparison)5 meridian minutes
09,277(for comparison)5 equatorial minutes
09,323alte Landmeile
(old state mile)
Hanover1836
09,347alte Landmeile
(old state mile)
Hanover1836
09,869.6Oldenburg
10,000metric mile, Scandinavian mileScandinaviastill commonly used today, e. g. for road distances.; equates to the myriameter
10,044große Meile
(great mile)
Westphalia
10,670Finland
10,688.54milSweden1889
11,113.7(for comparison)6 meridian minutes
11,132.4(for comparison)6 equatorial minutes
11,299milNorwaywas equivalent to 3000 Rhenish rods.

Similar units:

## References

1. ^ Trade, Travel, and Exploration in the Middle Ages: An Encyclopedia
2. ^ The Oxford English Dictionary
3. ^ Espasa-Calpe Dictionary, Argentina and Mexico Edition 1945: headword Legua
4. ^ [1]
5. ^ Part 2, Chapter 7 "Accordingly, our speed was twenty–five miles (that is, twelve four–kilometer 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 meters 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."
6. ^ a b c d 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. 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. ^ Pre-metric units of length
11. Helmut Kahnt (1986) (in German), BI-Lexikon Alte Maße, Münzen und Gewichte (1, ed.), Leipzig: VEB Bibliographisches Institut, pp. 380
12. ^ IKAR-Altkartendatenbank der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Kartenabteilung.