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. Derived from an ancient Celtic unit and adopted by the Romans as the leuga, the league became a common unit of measurement throughout western Europe. Since the Middle Ages, many values have been specified in several countries.
It may have originally represented, roughly, the distance a person could walk in an hour.
See also: Ancient Roman units of measurement
The league was used in Ancient Rome, defined as 1½ 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.
The Argentine league (legua) is 5.572 km (3.462 mi) or 6,666 varas: 1 vara is 0.83 m (33 in).
See also: English units of measurement
On land, the league is most commonly defined as three miles (4.83 km), although the length of a mile could vary from place to place as well as depending on the era. At sea, a league is three nautical miles (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, namely 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 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). It is this unit that is referenced in both the title and the body text of Jules Verne's novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas (1870).
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.
See also: Portuguese customary units
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.
For compatiblilty 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.
See also: Spanish customary units
The legua or Spanish league was originally understood as equivalent to 3 millas (Spanish miles). 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. 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.
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)||Name||Where used||From||To||Definition||Remarks|
|1,000||(for comparison)||1 kilometer|
|1,280.16||kawtha||Myanmar||today||20 out-thaba||Myanmar units of measurement|
|1,482||mille passus, milliarium||Roman Empire||Ancient Roman units of measurement|
|1,609.3426||(statute) mile||England/UK||1592||1959||1,760 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|
|1,609.344||mile||some English speaking countries||1959||today||1,760 yards||On 1 July 1959, the imperial mile was standardized to an exact length in metres|
|1,609.3472||(statute) mile||United States||1893||today||1,760 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: 3,600/3,937 × 1760|
|1,852||nautical mile||international||today||1,852 m||Symbol: nmi; Abbreviation: NM|
|1,852.3||(for comparison)||1 meridian minute|
|1,853.181||Turkish (nautical) mile||Turkey||1933||today|
|1,855.4||(for comparison)||1 equatorial minute||Though 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.|
|1,894.35||Ottoman mile||Ottoman Empire||1933||5,000 ayak||Ottoman units of measurement|
|2,220||Gallo-Roman league||Gallo-Roman culture||1+1⁄2 miles||Under 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.|
|3,898||French lieue (post league)||France||2,000 "body lengths"|
|4,000||general or metric league|
|4,190||legue||Mexico||= 2,500 tresas = 5,000 varas|
|4,444.8||landleuge||1⁄25° of a circle of longitude|
|4,452.2||lieue commune||France||Units of measurement in France before the French Revolution|
|4,513||legua||Chile, (Guatemala, Haiti)||= 36 cuadros = 5,400 varas|
|4,531||Wegstunde||Saxony||1722||1840||1,000 Dresden rods||introduced on occasion of a countrywide road survey|
|4,828||English land league||England||3 miles|
|Germanic rasta, also doppelleuge
|5,120.64||ga-wout (Burmese league)||Myanmar||today||4 kawtha||Myanmar units of measurement|
|5,196||legua||Bolivia||= 40 ladres|
|5,152||legua argentina||Argentina, Buenos Aires||= 6,000 varas|
|5,556||Seeleuge (nautical league)||1⁄20° of a circle of longitude
3 nautical miles
|5,570||legua||Spain and Chile||Spanish customary units|
|5,572||legua||Colombia||= 3 Millas|
|5,572.7||legue||Peru||= 20,000 feet|
|Spain||= 3 millas = 15,000 feet|
|5,590||légua||Brazil||= 5,000 varas = 2,500 bracas|
|5,685||Fersah (Turkish league)||Ottoman Empire||1933||3 Ottoman miles||Derived from Persian Parasang.|
|6,197||légua antiga||Portugal||= 3 milhas = 24 estadios|
|Spain||1766||= 8,000 Varas|
(state survey mile)
|7,409||(for comparison)||4 meridian minutes|
|7,419.2||Kingdom of Hanover|
|7,419.4||Duchy of Brunswick|
|7,420.439||geographic mile||1⁄15 equatorial grads|
|7,421.6||(for comparison)||4 equatorial minutes|
|7,467.6||Russia||7 werst||Obsolete Russian units of measurement|
|7,500||kleine / neue Postmeile
(small/new postal mile)
|Saxony||1840||German Empire, North German Confederation, Grand Duchy of Hesse, Russia|
(German state mile)
|Denmark, Hamburg, Prussia||primarily for Denmark defined by Ole Rømer|
|Austria-Hungary||Austrian units of measurement|
|9,062||average Post- or Polizeimeile
(middle post mile or police mile)
|9,206.3||Electorate of Hesse|
|9,261.4||(for comparison)||5 meridian minutes|
|9,277||(for comparison)||5 equatorial minutes|
(old state mile)
(old state mile)
|10,000||metric mile, Scandinavian mile||Scandinavia||still commonly used today, e.g. for road distances.; equates to the myriametre|
|11,113.7||(for comparison)||6 meridian minutes|
|11,132.4||(for comparison)||6 equatorial minutes|
|11,295||mil||Norway||1889||was equivalent to 3,000 Rhenish rods.|