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This article is about the post-1824 measures used in the British Empire and countries in the British sphere of influence. For information about the units used in England before 1824, see English units. For information about the units used in the USA, see United States customary units. For information about the system of weight, see Avoirdupois. Imperial units or the imperial system is a system of units, first defined in the British Weights and Measures Act of 1824, later refined (until 1959) and reduced. Systems of imperial units are sometimes referred to as footpound-second, after the base units of length, mass and time. The units were introduced in the British Empire, excluding the then already independent United States. As of 2008, all countries that used the imperial system have become officially metric, except for the United States, Burma and Liberia, however some other countries have laws mandating or permitting other systems of measurement, such as the United Kingdom which still uses many imperial measures, such as miles and yards for road signs, lb/oz, pints, etc. for many products, and also uses inches and barleycorns for clothing and shoe sizes respectively. 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.
Imperial standards of length 1876 in Trafalgar Square, London. After the 1 July 1959 deadline, agreed upon in 1958, the US and the British yard were defined identically, at 0.9144 metres to match 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 metres. Until the adoption of the international definition of 1852 metres in 1970, the British nautical mile was defined as 6,080 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).
The former Weights and Measures office in Seven Sisters, London.
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
In 1824, Britain adopted a close approximation to the ale gallon known as the imperial gallon. The imperial gallon
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Table of length equivalent units Unit thou inch foot yard mile league fathom 1000 thou 12 inches 3 feet 8 furlongs 3 miles Relative to previous Feet
Millimetres Metres 0.0254 25.4 304.8 914.4 0.3048 0.9144 201.168 1609.344
Notes 25.4 μm The unit is known as a mil in the United States.
1 3 660 5280 15,840
Defined as exactly 0.9144 metres since 1956.
furlong 220 yards
4828.032 No longer an official unit in any nation. 1.853184 The British Admiralty in practice used a fathom as 6 feet. This was despite its being 1⁄1000 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 for all depth ranges.
Maritime units 6.08 or 6 1,853.184
~100 fathoms 608 6,080
185.3184 One tenth of a nautical mile. When in use it was approximated colloquially as 100 fathoms. 1,853.184 Used 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. 201.168 5029.2 0.201168 5.0292 20.1168 The pole is also called rod or perch.
nautical 10 cables mile
Gunter’s survey units (17th century onwards) link pole chain 25 links 4 poles
Area Unit Relation Square Square Square Square to units feet rods miles metres of length perch 1 rod × 1 272.25 1 rod rood 1 furlong × 1 rod acre 1 furlong × 1 chain 10,890 40
0.002529 Although the proper term is square rod, for centuries this unit has been called a pole or perch or, more properly square pole or square perch. The rood is also called a rod.
⁄2560 1,011.7141056 0.1012
Note: All equivalences are exact except the hectares, which are accurate to four significant figures.
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Table of volume units Unit fluid ounce (fl oz) gill pint (pt) quart (qt) gallon (gal) Imperial ounce 1 5 20 40 160 Imperial pint
Millilitres 28.4130625 142.0653125 568.26125 1,136.5225 4,546.09
Cubic inches 1.7339 8.6694 34.677 69.355 277.42
US ounces 0.96076 4.8038 19.215 38.430 153.72
US pints 0.060047 0.30024 1.2009 2.4019 9.6076
1 2 8
Note: The millilitre equivalences are exact whereas the conversions to cubic-inch and US measures are correct to five significant figures. Table of mass units Unit grain drachm ounce (oz) pound (lb) stone (st) Pounds Grams
1 1 1
Notes Exactly 64.79891 milligrams.
⁄7000 ⁄256 ⁄16
0.06479891 1.7718451953125 28.349523125 453.59237 6,350.29318 0.45359237 6.35029318
Exactly 453.59237 grams by definition. A person’s weight is often quoted in stone and pounds in English-speaking countries, with the exception of the United States and Canada, where it is usually quoted in pounds. A "quarter" was also commonly used to refer to a quarter of a pound in a retail context.
hundredweight 112 (cwt) ton (t) 2240
1,016.0469088 20 hundredweights in both systems, US hundredweight being lighter. • apothecaries’ weight, now virtually unused since the metric system is used for all scientific purposes. The troy pound (373.2417216 g) was made the primary unit of mass by the 1824 Act? however, its use was abolished in Britain on 6 January 1879, making the Avoirdupois pound the primary unit of mass with only the troy ounce (31.1034768 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. 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). Each is divided into 20 hundredweights (cwt), the British hundredweight of 112 pounds being 12% heavier than the American hundredweight. Further information: Comparison of the imperial and US customary measurement systems
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). For a comparison to the US customary system see the article on Comparison of the imperial and US customary measurement systems.
In the 19th and 20th centuries Britain has used three different systems for mass and weight: • troy weight, used for precious metals; • avoirdupois weight, used for most other purposes; and
Current use of imperial units
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The United Kingdom completed its legal transition to SI units in 1995, but a few imperial units are still in official use: draught beer must be sold in pints, road-sign distances must be in yards and miles, road-sign clearance heights must be in feet and inches (although an equivalent in metres may be shown as well) and road speed limits must be in miles per hour, therefore instruments in vehicles sold in Britain 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 on High Speed 1. Adjacent to Ashford International railway station and Dollands Moor Freight Yard, railway 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. Most people still measure their weight in stone and pounds, and height in feet and inches—but these must be converted to metric if recorded officially, for example in medical records. 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 litres per 100 km equivalents. Fahrenheit equivalents are occasionally given after Celsius in weather forecasts. Threads on non metric nuts and bolts etc are sometimes referred to as Imperial, especially in the UK.
A baby bottle that measures in three measurement systems—imperial (UK), US customary, and metric.
British law now defines each imperial unit in terms of the metric equivalent. The Metric System is in official use within the United Kingdom, however use of Imperial unit is widespread in many cases. 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 proven 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 31 December 2009 to enforce metric-only labels and ban any supplementary indicators (imperial measurements) on goods after the deadline has been abolished. On 9 May 2007 the European Commission agreed to allow supplementary indications alongside the statutory metric indications beyond 2009. 
See also: Metrication in Canada In the 1970s the metric system and SI units were introduced in Canada to replace the imperial system. Within the government, efforts to implement the metric system were extensive; almost any agency, institution, or function provided by the government uses SI units exclusively. 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. In the 1980s, momentum to fully convert to the metric system stalled when the government of Brian
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Mulroney was elected. There was heavy opposition to metrication and as a compromise the government maintains legal definitions for and allows use of imperial units as long as metric units are shown as well. The law requires that measured products (such as fuel and meat) be priced in metric units, although an imperial price can be shown if a metric price is present. However, there tends to be leniency in regards to fruits and vegetables being priced in imperial units only. Environment Canada still offers an imperial unit option beside metric units, even though weather is typically measured and reported in metric units in the Canadian media. However, some radio stations near the United States border (such as CIMX and CIDR) primarily use imperial units to report the weather. Imperial units are still used in ordinary conversation. Few older Canadians would exclusively use SI units to describe their weight and height. Although drivers’ licences in some provinces like British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador use SI units, other provinces like Saskatchewan use imperial units. In livestock auction markets, cattle are sold in dollars per hundredweight (short), whereas hogs are sold in dollars per hundred kilograms. Imperial units still dominate in recipes, construction, house renovation and gardening, although often informally. Land is now surveyed and registered in metric units, although initial surveys used imperial units. For example, partitioning of farm land on the prairies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was done in imperial units; this accounts for imperial units of distance and area retaining wide use in the prairie provinces. The size of most apartments, condominiums and houses continues to be described in square feet rather than square metres, and carpet or flooring tile is purchased by the square foot. Motor-vehicle fuel consumption is reported in both litres per 100 km and statute miles per imperial gallon, leading to the erroneous impression that Canadian vehicles are 20% more fuel-efficient than their apparently-identical American counterparts, their fuel economy being reported in statute miles per US gallon. (neither country specifies which gallon is used) Imperial units also retain common use in firearms and ammunition. Imperial measures are still used in the description of cartridge types, even when the cartridge is of relatively recent invention (e.g. 0.204 Ruger, 0.17 HMR, where the calibre 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 grains for both metric and imperial cartridges. As in most of the western world, air navigation is based on nautical units, e.g. the nautical mile, which is neither imperial nor metric.
Australia, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa and Hong Kong
Some imperial measurements remain in limited use in Australia, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa and Hong Kong. Real estate agents continue to use acres and square feet to describe area in conjunction with hectares and square metres. Measurements in feet and inches, especially for a person’s height, are frequently met in conversation and non-governmental publications. Towns and villages in Malaysia with no proper names had adopted the mile (known also as batu in Malay) to denote their locations along a rural main road (i.e. "3rd Mile", "Batu Enam" or "Batu 11"); many of their names remain unchanged even after the adoption of the metric system for distance in the country.
Republic of Ireland
The Republic of Ireland has officially changed over to the metric system since entering the European Union, with distances on new road signs being metric since 1977 and speed limits being metric since 2005. However the imperial system remains in limited use, particularly for sales of beer in pubs (traditionally sold by the pint) and some other commodities (such as milk). A minority of old road signs with distances in miles still remain, and the majority of cars sold pre-2005 feature speedometers with miles per hour. The imperial system is still often used in everyday conversation, particularly by the elder generation.
The United States uses a hodgepodge of metric and customary units. The customary units in use there are historically derived from units which were in use in England at the time of settlement. The measurements of most of these units in England itself were subsequently changed. In the manufacture of ammunition, bullet and powder weights are expressed in grains. In commercial HVAC practice, (heating, cooling & air-conditioning) humidity is expressed in grains per pound.
Petrol/gasoline is still sold by the imperial gallon in Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Burma, Grenada, Guyana, Sierra Leone and the United Arab Emirates.
• • • • • Board foot Cooking weights and measures Conversion of units Cord (unit of volume) History of measurement
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• Metrication • Unit of measurement
   
  
 "GRENADA VISITOR FORUM - Cost Of Living - Grocery Prices". http://www.grenadavisitorforum.com/forum/ showthread.php?t=345. Retrieved on 2008-01-15.  "The Government of Grenada - The Ministry of Agriculture". http://agriculture.gov.gd/ Sears et al. 1928. Phil Trans A 227:281 newsitem.aspx?nid=375. Retrieved on 2008-01-15. "he "General Tables of Units of Measurement" (PDF). online price of gasoline at the pumps was fixed at EC$7.50 per pdf. NIST, United States Government. http://ts.nist.gov/ imperial gallon..." WeightsAndMeasures/Publications/upload/  "Belize Ministry of Finance::FAQ". Belize Ministry of h4402_appenc.pdf. Retrieved on 2008-01-30. Finance. http://mof.gov.bz/ The exact figure was 6.08 feet but 6 feet was in use faqresults.asp?category=SUPPLIES+CONTROL&question=39. in practice. Retrieved on 2008-01-15. "#Kerosene per US Gallon (per "Appendix C: General Tables of Units of Measurements" Imperial gallon)#Gasoline (Regular)(per Imperial (pdf). NIST. http://ts.nist.gov/WeightsAndMeasures/ Gallon)# Gasoline (Premium) (per Imperial Gallon)#Diesel Publications/upload/h4402_appenc.pdf. Retrieved on 4 (per Imperial Gallon)" January 2007.  "Belize shopping". http://www.virtualtourist.com/ http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/db/ travel/Caribbean_and_Central_America/Belize/ node.xsp?id=EAD%2FGBR%2F0272%2FKC%2FKCAR%2F6%2F2;recurse=1 Shopping-Belize-BR-1.html. Retrieved on 2008-01-15. http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/db/ "Although the Belize $ is pegged at two for every US$, node.xsp?id=EAD%2FGBR%2F0272%2FKC%2FKCAR%2FMON%2F38use Imperial gallons rather than the smaller US they Sizes.com gallons (0.83 of an Imperial) when dealing with gasoline. The distinction between mass and weight is not The cheapest grade of gasoline was US$4.69/Imperial always clearly drawn. In certain contexts the term gallon" pound may refer to a unit of force rather than mass.  "The High Commission Antigua and Barbuda". "EU shelves ban on imperial measures" (online). Press http://www.antigua-barbuda.com/business_politics/ Association/Guardian Unlimited. 9 May 2007. budget_speeches/budget_speech_2001.asp. Retrieved on http://www.guardian.co.uk/uklatest/story/ 2008-01-15. 0,,-6620117,00.html. Retrieved on 15 May 2007.  "FuelPrices2005" (pdf). German Technical Cooperation. "Weights and Measures Act: Canadian units of measure". 96. http://www.international-fuel-prices.com/ Justice Canada. http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/showdoc/ downloads/FuelPrices2005.pdf. Retrieved on 2008-01-15. cs/W-6/sc:2//en#anchorsc:2. Retrieved on 2007-11-14.  "500 Are Detained in Burmese Capital". "Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising". Canadian http://query.nytimes.com/gst/ Food Inspection Agency. http://www.inspection.gc.ca/ fullpage.html?res=9C0CE4DF113DF936A1575BC0A966958260. english/fssa/labeti/guide/ch11e.shtml#11.2. Retrieved on Retrieved on 2008-01-16. "... the Government cut the 2007-12-01. ration of subsidized gasoline from six to four imperial "Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations". gallons a week" Justice Canada, Legislative Services Branch.  "Burma’s Activists March against Fuel Price". 20 August http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/ShowTdm/cr/C.R.C.2007. http://www.irrawaddy.org/ c.417///en. Retrieved on 2007-12-01. article.php?art_id=8286. Retrieved on 2008-01-16. "The "A Canadian compromise". CBC. http://archives.cbc.ca/ government, which holds a monopoly on fuel sales and clip.asp?page=1&IDLan=1&IDClip=10620&IDCat=345&IDCatPa=261. subsidizes them, raised prices of fuel from 1,500 kyats (US Retrieved on 2008-03-12. $1.16) to 3,000 kyats ($2.33) per imperial gallon for diesel "A Canadian compromise". CBC. http://archives.cbc.ca/ and to 2,500 kyats ($1.94) for gasoline." clip.asp?page=1&IDLan=1&IDClip=10620&IDCat=345&IDCatPa=261. Win, Aye Aye (22 August 2007). "Fuel Hike Protest Begins  Retrieved on 2008-03-11. in Myanmar". Associated Press. http://18.104.22.168/ ^ "Les livres et les pieds, toujours présents (eng:The search?q=cache:K96Q9Q58hD4J:news.corporate.findlaw.com/ pounds and feet, always present)". 5 sur 5, Société Radioap/i/626/08-22-2007/ Canada. http://archives.radio-canada.ca/ 73ae00161f8c1f54.html+Burma+gasoline+imperial+gallon+price&hl=en&ct= clip.asp?page=1&IDLan=0&IDClip=9378&IDCat=216&IDCatPa=151. a. Retrieved on 2008-01-16. "The government, which Retrieved on 2008-03-11. holds a monopoly on fuel sales and subsidizes them, Driver’s Licences: Photo ID raised prices of fuel from $1.16 to $2.33 per imperial http://www.oee.nrcan.gc.ca/transportation/tools/ gallon for diesel and to $1.94 for gasoline. A canister of fuelratings/ratings-search.cfm?attr=8 natural gas containing 17 gallons was raised from 39 "FuelPrices1999" (pdf). German Technical Cooperation. 9. cents to $1.94." http://www.international-fuel-prices.com/downloads/ • Appendices B and C of NIST Handbook 44 FuelPrices1999.pdf. Retrieved on 2008-01-15.
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• Barry N. Taylor’s NIST Special Publication 811, also available as a PDF file • 6 George IV chapter 12, 1825 (statute)
• • • • British Weights And Measures Association Canada Weights and Measures Act 1970-71-72 General table of units of measure - NIST - pdf How Many? A Dictionary of Units of Measurement