imperial units



Imperial units or the Imperial system is a collection of units, first defined in the British Weights and Measures Act of 1824, later refined (until 1959) and reduced. The units were introduced in the United Kingdom and its colonies, including Commonwealth countries (most have since become officially metric), but excluding the then already independent United States. Systems of imperial units are sometimes referred to as foot-pound-second, after the base units of length, mass and time.

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The former Weights and Measures office in Middlesex, England.

Relation to other systems

The distinction between the imperial system and the U.S. customary units (also called standard or English units) or older British/English units/systems and newer additions is often not drawn precisely. Most length units are shared between the imperial and U.S. systems, albeit partially and temporally defined differently. Capacity measures differ the most due to the introduction of the imperial gallon and the unification of wet and dry measures. The avoirdupois system applies only to weights; it has a long designation and a short designation for the hundredweight and ton. The term imperial should not be applied to English units that were outlawed in Weights and Measures Act of 1824 or earlier, or which had fallen out of use by that time, nor to post-imperial inventions such as the slug or poundal.

Although most of the units are defined in more than one system, some subsidiary units were used to a much greater extent, or for different purposes, in one area rather than the other.

Measures of length

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Imperial standards of length 1876 in Trafalgar Square, London.


After the 1 July 1959 deadline, agreed upon in 1958, the U.S. and the British yard were defined identically, at 0.9144 m to the international yard. Metric equivalents in this article usually assume this latest official definition. Before this date, the most precise measurement of the imperial Standard Yard was 0.914398416 m (Sears et al. 1928. Phil Trans A 227:281).

Table of length equivalent units
Unit Relative value to yard Metric value Notes
thou13600025.4 μm
inch1362.54 cm
foot1330.48 cm
yard191.44 cmDefined as exactly 0.9144 metres since 1956.
furlong220~201.2 m
mile1760~1609 m
league5280~4828 mNo longer an official unit in any nation.
Maritime units
fathom2[1]~1.853 m The fathom is not in use anymore. The British Admiralty in practice used a fathom as 6 feet. This was despite it being 11000 of a nautical mile (i.e. 6.08 feet) until 1970, when the international nautical mile of exactly 1852 metres was adopted. The commonly accepted definition of a fathom was always 6 feet. The conflict was inconsequential in determining depth as Admiralty nautical charts used feet as depths below 5 fathoms on older imperial charts. Today all charts worldwide are metric, except for USA Hydrographic Office charts, which use feet only for all depth ranges.
cable202+23~185.3 mOne tenth of a nautical mile. When in use it was approximated colloquially as 100 fathoms.
nautical mile2026+23~1853 mUsed to measure distances at sea. This value referred to the British nautical (Admiralty) mile of 6,080 ft; the modern international mile is slightly different. In practice the nautical mile was never converted to yards.
Gunter's survey units (17th century onwards)
link22100~20.12 cm
pole5+12~5.029 mThe pole is also called rod or perch.
chain22~20.12 m


Until the adoption of the international definition of 1852 metres in 1970, the British nautical mile was defined as 6080 feet. It was not readily expressible in terms of any of the intermediate units, because it was derived from the circumference of the Earth (like the original metre).

Measures of area

Area
1 rood= 1 furlong × 1 rod[2]= 40 square rods= 12560 square mile= 10,890 sq ft= ~0.1012 ha= ~1012 m²
1 acre= 1 furlong × 1 chain= 160 square rods= 1640 square mile= 43,560 sq ft= ~0.4047 ha= ~4047 m²

Measures of volume

In 1824, Britain adopted a close approximation to the ale gallon known as the imperial gallon. The imperial gallon was based on the volume of 10 lb of distilled water weighed in air with brass weights with the barometer standing at 30 in Hg at a temperature of 62 °F. In 1963 this definition was refined as the space occupied by 10 lb of distilled water of density 0.998 859 g/ml weighed in air of density 0.001 217 g/ml against weights of density 8.136 g/ml. This works out to 4.545 964 591 L, or 277.420 cu in. The Weights and Measures Act of 1985 switched to a gallon of exactly 4.546 09 L (approximately 277.4 cu in) [3].

Table of volume units
Unit Relative value to pint Metric value U.S. value Notes
fluid ounce (fl oz)120~28.41 ml~0.9608 fl oz
gill14~142.1 ml~4.804 fl oz
pint (pt)1~568.2 ml~1.201 ptStill the usual serving size for beer and cider, and the usual retail size for milk, in the UK.
quart (qt)2~1.136 L~1.201 qt
gallon (gal)8~4.546 L~1.201 galExactly 4.546 09 litres.


For a comparison to the U.S. customary system see the article on Comparison of the Imperial and U.S. customary systems.

Measures of weight and mass

Britain has used three different weight systems in the 19th and 20th centuries:, troy weight, used for precious metals; avoirdupois weight, used for most other purposes; and apothecaries' weight, now virtually unused since the metric system is used for all scientific purposes. The 1824 Act made the Troy pound the primary unit of weight.

The use of the troy pound (373.241 721 6 g) was abolished in Britain on January 6, 1879, making the Avoirdupois pound the primary unit of weight.with only the troy ounce (31.103 476 8 g) and its decimal subdivisions retained. In all the systems, the fundamental unit is the pound, and all other units are defined as fractions or multiples of it.

Table of mass units
Unit Relative value to pound Metric value U.S. value Notes
grain17000~64.8 mg
drachm1256~1.771 gKnown as a 'teenth' in some UK subcultures.
ounce (oz)116~28.35 g
pound (lb)1~453.6 gExactly 453.592 37 grammes.
stone (st)14~6.35 kgA person's weight is often quoted in stones or pounds in English-speaking countries.
quarter28~12.7 kgA "quarter" was also commonly used to refer to a quarter of a pound in a retail context.
hundredweight (cwt)112~50.8 kg100 lb
ton (t)2240~1016 kg2000 lb20 hundredweights in both systems, US hundredweight being lighter.


The British ton (the long ton), is 2240 pounds, which is very close to a metric tonne, whereas the ton generally used in the United States is the "short ton" of 2000 pounds (907.184 74 kg). Both are 20 hundredweights.

Further information: Comparison of the Imperial and US customary systems

Current use of imperial units

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A baby bottle that measures in three measurement systems—imperial (U.K.), U.S. Customary, and metric.

United States



The primary user of traditional 'English' units is the United States and to a lesser degree Burma and Liberia. In some of the U.S.-influenced Caribbean countries (like Antigua and Saint Lucia), the U.S. customary units, which are similar to imperial units based upon older English units and in part share definitions, are still in common use. The metric system (SI) has mostly replaced traditional units in other countries.

United Kingdom



British law now defines each imperial unit in terms of the metric equivalent.

The Units of Measurement Regulations 1995 require that all measuring devices used in trade or retail be capable of measuring and displaying metric quantities. This has now been proved in court against the so called 'Metric Martyrs', a small group of market traders who insisted on trading in imperial units only. Contrary to the impression given by some press reports, these regulations have never placed any obstacle in the way of using imperial units alongside metric units. Almost all traders in the UK will accept requests from customers specified in imperial units, and scales which display in both unit systems are commonplace in the retail trade. Metric price signs may currently be accompanied by imperial price signs (known as supplementary indicators) provided that the imperial signs are no larger and no more prominent than the official metric ones. The EU's deadline of December 31, 2009 to enforce metric-only labels and ban any supplementary indicators (imperial measurements) on goods after the deadline has been abolished. On May 9, 2007 the European Commission agreed to allow supplementary indications alongside the statutory metric indications beyond 2009. [4]

The United Kingdom completed its legal transition to SI units in 1995, but a few such units are still in official use: draught beer must be sold in pints, road-sign distances must be in yards and miles, and speed limits in miles per hour, therefore instruments in British-registered vehicles must be capable of displaying miles per hour. (Foreign vehicles, such as all post-2005 Irish vehicles, may legally have instruments displayed only in kilometres per hour.) Even though the troy pound was outlawed in Great Britain in the Weights and Measures Act of 1878, the troy ounce still may be used for the weight of precious stones and metals. The railways are also a big user of imperial units, with distances officially measured in miles and yards or miles and chains, and also feet and inches, and speeds are in miles per hour, although many modern metro and tram systems are entirely metric, and London Underground uses both metric (for distances) and imperial (for speeds). Metric is also used for the Channel Tunnel and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link high speed line. Adjacent to Ashford International railway station and Dollands Moor International Freight Terminal, speeds are given in both metric and imperial units.

The use of SI units is mandated by law for the retail sale of food and other commodities, but most British people still use imperial units in colloquial discussion of distance (miles) and speed (miles per hour). Milk is available in both half-litre and pint containers. Many people still measure their weight in stones and pounds, and height in feet and inches — but these must be converted to metric if recorded officially, for example on passports. Petrol is sometimes quoted as being so much per gallon, despite having been sold exclusively in litres for two decades. Likewise, fuel consumption for cars is still usually in miles per gallon, though official figures always include litre per 100 km equivalents. Fahrenheit equivalents are occasionally given after Celsius in weather forecasts, especially for high temperatures.

Canada

Main article: Metrication in Canada


In Canada, the government's efforts to implement the metric system were extensive: almost any agency, institution, or function provided by the government uses SI units exclusively. In the 1970s, the metric systems and SI units were introduced. Imperial units were eliminated from all road signs, although both systems of measurement will still be found on privately-owned signs, such as the height warnings at the entrance of a multi-storey parking facility. Temperature is typically measured and reported in degrees Celsius. However some radio stations near the United States border (such as CIMX and CIDR), mainly or only use imperial units to report the weather. Environment Canada still has reports with an imperial units option beside the metric ones. The law requires that measured products (such as fuel and meat) be priced in metric units, although there is leniency in regards to fruits and vegetables.

Traditional units persist in ordinary conversation. Few Canadians would use SI units to describe their weight and height, although drivers' licences use SI units. In livestock auction markets, cattle are sold in dollars per hundredweight (short), whereas hogs are sold in dollars per hundred kilograms. Land is surveyed and registered in metric units, but imperial units still dominate in recipes, construction, house renovation and gardening talk.

One area where imperial units are still in common use is in firearms and ammunition. Imperial measures are still used in the description of cartridge types, even where the cartridge is of relatively recent invention (e.g. 0.204 Ruger, 0.17 HMR, where the caliber is expressed in decimal fractions of an inch). However, ammunition which is classified in metric already is still kept metric (e.g. 9 mm, 7.62 mm). In the manufacture of ammunition, bullet and powder weights are expressed in terms of imperial grains.

See also

References

1. ^ Though not exact this was the figure in use in practice.
2. ^ Appendix C: General Tables of Units of Measurements (pdf). NIST. Retrieved on 2007-01-04.
3. ^ Sizes.com
4. ^ EU shelves ban on imperial measures (online) (English). Press Association/Guardian Unlimited (May 9, 2007). Retrieved on 2007-05-15.

External links

English unit is the American name for a unit in one of a number of systems of units of measurement, some obsolete, and some still in use. In spite of the name, it does not necessarily refer to the (non-SI) system of units still in widespread, but mostly unofficial, use in England
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U.S. customary units, also known in the United States as English units[1] (but see English unit) or standard units, are units of measurement that are currently used in the USA, in some cases alongside units from SI (the International System of Units
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The avoirdupois (IPA: /ˌævərdəˈpɔɪz/; French IPA: [avwɑrdypwɑ]
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common units, but have now been mostly replaced by the metric system in commercial, scientific, and industrial applications.

Contrarily, however, U.S. customary units are still the main system of measurement in the United States.
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Acts of Parliament of predecessor
states to the United Kingdom

Acts of English Parliament to 1601
Acts of English Parliament to 1641
Acts and Ordinances (Interregnum) to 1660
Acts of English Parliament to 1699
Acts of English Parliament to 1706
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Motto
"Dieu et mon droit" [2]   (French)
"God and my right"
Anthem
"God Save the Queen" [3]
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Headquarters
(and largest city)
Official languages English
Membership 53 sovereign states
Leaders
 -  Head of the Commonwealth Queen Elizabeth II
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Both the Imperial and U.S. customary systems of measurement derive from earlier English systems. These English systems had developed in England over several centuries since the Battle of Hastings in 1066. They were a combination of the Anglo-Saxon and Roman systems.
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U.S. customary units, also known in the United States as English units[1] (but see English unit) or standard units, are units of measurement that are currently used in the USA, in some cases alongside units from SI (the International System of Units
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There are three definitions in current use:
  • U.S. liquid gallon is legally defined as 231 cubic inches, and is equal to 3.785411784 litres (exactly) or about 0.13368 cubic foot. This is the most common definition of a gallon in the USA. The U.S.

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The avoirdupois (IPA: /ˌævərdəˈpɔɪz/; French IPA: [avwɑrdypwɑ]
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Acts of Parliament of predecessor
states to the United Kingdom

Acts of English Parliament to 1601
Acts of English Parliament to 1641
Acts and Ordinances (Interregnum) to 1660
Acts of English Parliament to 1699
Acts of English Parliament to 1706
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The slug is an English unit of mass. It is a mass that accelerates by 1 ft/s² when a force of one pound-force (lbf) is exerted on it. Therefore a slug has a mass of about 32.17405 pound-mass or 14.5939 kg.
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The poundal is a non-SI unit of force. It is a part of the foot-pound-second system of units, a coherent subsystem of English units introduced in 1879, and one of several specialized subsystems of mechanical units used as aids in calculations.
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July 1 is the 1st day of the year (2nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 0 days remaining. The end of this day marks the halfway point of a leap year.
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20th century - 21st century
1920s  1930s  1940s  - 1950s -  1960s  1970s  1980s
1956 1957 1958 - 1959 - 1960 1961 1962

Year 1959 (MCMLIX
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A thou, also known as a mil, is a unit of length equal to 0.001 inches (a "milli-inch"). It is sometimes used in engineering and in the specification of:
  • the thickness of items such as paper, film, foil, wires, paint coatings, latex gloves, plastic sheeting, and

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1 inch =
SI units
010−3 m 0 mm
US customary / Imperial units
010−3 ft 010−3 yd


An inch (plural: inches; symbol or abbreviation: in or, sometimes,  
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1 foot =
SI units
0 m 0 mm
US customary / Imperial units
0 yd 0 in
A foot (plural: feet or foot;[1] symbol or abbreviation: ft or, sometimes,
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1 yard =
SI units
0 m 0 mm
US customary / Imperial units
0 ft 0 in
A yard (abbreviation: yd) is the name of a unit of length in a number of different systems, including English units, Imperial units, and United States customary
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1 furlong =
SI units
0 m 0 km
US customary / Imperial units
0 ft 0 yd
A furlong is a measure of distance within imperial units and U.S. customary units, and is equal to 660 feet or one-eighth of a mile. In metric units, this is 201.
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1 mile =
SI units
0 m 0 km
US customary / Imperial units
0 ft 0 yd

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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).
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1 fathom =
SI units
0 m 0 cm
US customary / Imperial units
0 ft 0 in
A fathom is a unit of length in the Imperial system (and the derived U.S. customary units).
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Naval Service

Components
Royal Navy
  • Surface Fleet
  • Fleet Air Arm
  • Submarine Service
  • Royal Navy Regulating Branch
  • Royal Naval Reserve
  • Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service
Royal Marines
  • (includes Royal Marines Reserve)

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A cable length or cable's length is a nautical unit of measure equal to one tenth of a nautical mile or 100 fathoms. The unit is named after the length of a ship's anchor cable in the age of sail. The definition varies:
  • International: 1/10 nautical mile, or 185.

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1 nautical mile =
SI units
0 m 0 km
US customary / Imperial units
0 ft 0 mi
A nautical mile or sea mile is a unit of length.
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1 link =
SI units
0 m 0 mm
US customary / Imperial units
0 ft 0 in
A link, also called a Gunter’s link, is a unit of length in the Imperial system. It is equal to 0.01 chain, or 7.92 inches in the Imperial system.
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1 rod =
SI units
0 m 0 cm
US customary / Imperial units
0 ft 0 yd


The rod is a unit of length, equal to 5.5 yards, 11 cubits, 5.0292 metres, 16.
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1 chain =
SI units
0 m 0 cm
US customary / Imperial units
0 ft 0 yd


A chain is a unit of length; it measures 66 feet, which equates to 20.1168 metres). There are therefore 80 chains in one statute mile.
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