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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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 league most frequently refers to the distance a person or a horse can walk in an hour, however, the league has multiple values.


Different definitions

The English-speaking world

In English usage over the past couple of centuries or so, the league was most often considered to be 3 miles, This was about 4.8 km if referring to the statute (land) mile (now 1609.344 m, but varying slightly through history) or about 5.6 km if referring to the nautical mile (1852 m). However, English usage also included any of the other 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 5.572 km (3.462 mi) or 6,666 varas: 1 vara is 0.83 m (33 in).[1]

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 lenght corresponding to a angle degree of a meridian.

As a transitory measure, after Portugal adopted the metrical 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.

See also: Portuguese customary units.


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.

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 (0.84 m each), about 4.2 km (2.6 miles). 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 about 4428.4 acres.[2] 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

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

See also


  1. ^ Espasa-Calpe Dictionary, Argentina and Mexico Edition 1945: headword Legua
  2. ^ Vikki Gray (1998-12-24). "Land Measurement Conversion Guide" (HTML). Vikki Gray. Retrieved 2007-06-04. 


Simple English

This article is about the unit of length. For other meanings see League.

A league is an old unit of length. It was first an ancient Celtic unit. It was the distance a person could walk in about one hour. The Romans adopted the league and it became a common unit of measurement throughout western Europe and Latin America.

In English-speaking countries the league was usually three statute miles (4.828032 kilometres) on land or three nautical miles at (5.556 km) sea. However, in writing the word league often means the Spanish, Portuguese or French league.[1]


Ancient Rome

The league was used by Ancient Rome, which defined it as being 1+12 Roman miles (7500 Roman feet or 2.22 km). The origin is the "leuga gallica" (also: leuca Gallica), the league of Gaul. The ancient league was short but the unit grew longer over time.


In Argentina a league is a distance of 5 km.


In Brazil the league was 6 km but it is not used anymore.


The French league had different values at different times: 10 000, 12 000, 13 200 and 14 400 French feet, about 3.25 km to about 4.68 km. It was used for a while together with the metric system but it is not used now. The nautical league was three nautical miles.


In the Mexican countryside the league is still commonly used in the original sense of the distance a person can walk in an hour. So a league along a good road on level ground is longer than a league on a difficult path over rough ground.


The Spanish league was originally set as a fixed unit of distance of 5,000 varas (a Spanish yard), about 2.6 miles or 4.2 km. In 1568 Philip II of Spain officially abolished the league. However, in parts of Latin America, people still use it (with different meanings in different countries).


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