League (unit)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

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 Template:Convert or 6,666 varas: 1 vara is Template:Convert.

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. 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

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "League (unit)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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