Scottish Weights and Measures: Distance and Area

1. Distance

The main units of linear measure were the foot and the mile. The foot was, traditionally, the length of a man's foot and the inch was a twelfth part of a foot (from the Latin word uncia, meaning 'a twelfth', which is also the root of the word 'ounce'). The ell (from the Latin Ulna, meaning 'forearm') was traditionally the distance from the elbow or shoulder to the wrist or finger-tips). A fall (from the Old Norse fale, meaning a 'pole' or 'perch') was the equivalent of the English measure, the 'pole'. The furlong was traditionally the distance an ox could pull a plough before needing a rest (literally a 'furrow long'). The mile (from the Roman mille passus or passuum) was based on the Roman linear measure 1000 paces.

According to the standard ell of Edinburgh, adopted in 1661:

Scots Imperial Metric
1 inch 1.0016 inches 2.54 centimetres
1 foot = 12 inches 12.0192 inches 30.5287 centimetres
1 ell = 3 feet 1 inch 1.0027 yards (37.0598 inches) 94.1318 centimetres
1 fall (or fa) = 6 ells 1.123 poles (6.1766 yards) 5.6479 metres
1 chain = 4 falls 1.123 chains (24.7064 yards) 22.5916 metres
1 furlong = 10 chains 1.123 furlongs (247.064 yards) 225.916 metres
1 mile = 8 furlongs 1.123 miles (1976.522 yards) 1.8073 kilometres

2. Area

The main units of area were the rood and acre. The rood (from the word rod, meaning a measuring rod) was the equivalent of 40 square falls. The acre corresponded to the size of a ploughed field (probably from the Anglo-Saxon word acer or aecer, meaning a 'field').

According to the standard ell of Edinburgh, adopted in 1661

Scots Imperial Metric
1 square inch 1.0256 square inches 6.4516 square centimetres
1 square ell 1.059 square yards 0.8853 square metre
1 square fall (or fa) = 36 square ells 1 pole 7.9 sq yards(38.125 sq yards) 31.87 square metres
1 rood = 40 square falls 1 rood 10 poles 13 sq. yards (1525 sq yards) 12.7483 ares
1 acre = 4 roods 1.26 acres (6100 sq. yards)

0.5099 hectare