League (unit)

League (unit)

A league is a unit of length or area long common in Europe and Latin America, although no longer an official unit in any nation. The league most frequently expresses the distance a person, or a horse, can walk in 1 hour of time (usually about 3.5 miles or 5.5 kilometres).

Different definitions

The English-speaking world

In English units over the past couple of centuries or so, the league was most often considered to be 3 miles, or about 4.8 to 5.6 km, depending on the mile being used – most commonly either the nautical mile (1852 m) or the statute mile (now 1609.344 m, but varying slightly through history). However, English language usage also includes use of this word for any of the various leagues mentioned below (e.g., 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.:"See also: Ancient Roman units of measurement."


The Argentinian league ("legua") is Convert|5.572|km|mi|sigfig=4|abbr=on or 6,666 "varas": 1 "vara" is Convert|0.83|m|in|abbr=on. ["Espasa-Calpe Dictionary", Argentina and Mexico Edition 1945: headword "Legua"]

Brazil and Portugal

In Portugal, Brazil and other territories of the former Portuguese Empire there were several units called league (Portuguese: "légua"):
* "Légua" of 18 by degree, equivalent to 6,172.4 metresClarifyme|date=August 2008
* "Légua" of 20 by degree, equivalent to 5,555.56 metres (maritime "légua")
* "Légua" of 25 by degree, equivalent to 4,444.44 metresAs a transitory measure, after Portugal adopted the metrical system, the metric "légua", equivalent to 5.0 km, was established.

In Brazil, "légua" is still used occasionally in the country, where it has been described as equivalent to 6.6 km, approximately.


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. Its use overlapped the metric system for a while but is now long discontinued.

:"See also: French units of measurement".


In Yucatan 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.


The Spanish League or "legua" was originally set as a fixed unit of distance of 5,000 varas ( 0.82 m each ), about 2.6 miles or 4.2 km. Officially the league was abolished by Philip II of Spain in 1568, but it is still in use unofficially in parts of Latin America, with exact meaning varying in different countries.

In the early Hispanic settlement of New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado, a league was also a unit of area, defined as being equal to 25,000,000 square varas or approximately 4428.4 acres.cite web | url = http://www.ghostseekers.com/Conversions.htm | title = Land Measurement Conversion Guide | format = HTML | author = Vikki Gray | publisher = Vikki Gray | date = 1998-12-24 | accessdate = 2007-06-04] 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.

Use in fiction

*The seven-league boots are a magical prop in European folk tales.
*Several fantasy authors have used the league to measure distances in their work. One example is A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin.
*Jules Verne used this unit in the title of 2 novels:
**"Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea"
**"Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon"
*Measurements in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth, are expressed in leagues, as being equivalent to a unit (the "lár") used by the people who appear in the story.
*Measurements in The Belgariad and The Mallorean by David Eddings are expressed in leagues.

ee also

* anthropic units
* Medieval weights and measures for various definitions of the league.
* Li (unit), a Chinese unit of length (considerably shorter than a league).
* Obsolete Spanish and Portuguese units of measurement
* Walking


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