List of obsolete units of measurement

This is a list of obsolete units of measurement, sorted by type. These units of measurement are typically no longer used, though some may be in limited use in various regions.


Energy, etc.


  • Ald
  • Alen
  • Aṅgula
  • Arabic mile
  • Arş and Arşın – two Turkish units of length
  • Bamboo – also known as the Burmese league
  • Button – a unit of length which has been used in the UK. It is defined as 112 in (2.1 mm).[3]:29
  • Cana – a unit of length used in the former Crown of Aragon, at least in Catalonia. It is around the same value as the vara of Aragon, Spain, and Portugal.[4]
  • Cubit[5]
  • Ell
  • Girah
  • Guz
  • Hat'h
  • Jow
  • Lachter – a unit of length once used in the mining industry in most of Europe. It was usually used to measure depth, tunnel driving and the size of mining fields; it was also used for contract work. In mining in the German-speaking countries, it was the primary unit of length.
  • Ligne – a French unit of length, roughly equal to 2.25 mm (0.089 in), or 9 points
  • Line
  • Macedonian cubit
  • Pace
  • Palm
  • Parasang
  • Pes
  • Pyramid inch – a unit of length, believed to be equal to 125 of the cubit
  • Rod
  • Sana lamjel
  • Spat – a unit of length equal to 1,000,000,000 km (620,000,000 mi)
  • Stadion
  • Step
  • Unglie
  • Vara – an Aragonese, Spanish and Portuguese unit[4]
  • Yojana – a Vedic measure of distance used in ancient India. Its value was about 10 km (6.2 mi), although the exact value is disputed among scholars (between 8 and 13 km or 5 and 8 mi)


  • Candlepower – an obsolete unit expressing luminous intensity equal to 0.981 candela, it expresses levels of light intensity in terms of the light emitted by a candle of specific size and constituents. In modern usage candlepower equates directly to the unit known as the candela.
  • Carcel burner – an efficient lighting device used in the nineteenth century for domestic purposes and in France as the standard measure for illumination
  • Carcel
  • Hefner candle
  • Violle

Mass or weight

Volume (dry or liquid)

  • Acetabulum
  • Adowlie
  • Amphora
  • Aum
  • Belshazzar
  • Botella − The Spanish for "bottle", which has been given various standard capacities at different times and places, and for different fluids.[8] Often-cited figures include 0.95 liters in Cuba (1796), 0.75 liters in Cuba (1862) and 0.7 liters in Colombia (1957).[9]
  • Bucket
  • Butt
  • Chungah
  • Congius
  • Coomb
  • Cord-foot – a U.S. unit of volume for stacked firewood with the symbol cd-ft equal to 16 cu ft (0.45 m3)[3]:52
  • Cotyla
  • Cran
  • Cullishigay
  • Deal – a former U.K. and U.S. unit of volume for stacked firewood.[3] A U.K. deal equaled 7 ft × 6 ft × 2 12 in, while a U.S. deal equaled 12 ft × 11 in × 1 12 in.[3]
  • Demiard - an old French unit of volume. When France metricated, it survived in Louisiana and Quebec. The demiard eventually became associated with the American and British half-pint rather than French units.[3]:34 See the article on the demiard for details.
  • Firlot
  • Hekat
  • Homer
  • House cord – a former U.S. unit of volume for stacked firewood[3]
  • Kile
  • Koku
  • Lambda – an uncommon metric unit of volume discontinued with the introduction of the SI
  • London quarter
  • Lump of butter – used in the U.S., up to and possibly after of the American Revolution. It equaled "one well rounded tablespoon".[10]
  • Masu
  • Metretes
  • Octave
  • Omer
  • Pau
  • Peck – the name of two different units of volume, one imperial and one U.S. Both equaled about 9 litres.
  • Puddee
  • Salt spoon – used in the U.S., up to and possibly after of the American Revolution. Four salt spoons equaled one teaspoon.[10]
  • Seah
  • Ser
  • Shipping ton – a unit of volume defined as 100 cu ft (2.8 m3)
  • Stuck
  • Wineglass – used in the U.S., up to and possibly after of the American Revolution. One wineglass equaled 14 cup.[10]


  • Apothecaries' system
  • Atom (time) – a hypothetical unit of time used in the Middle Ages
  • Bahar – a unit of length in Iran, and was a unit of mass in Oman
  • Batman – mostly a unit of mass, but sometimes a unit of area
  • Demal – unit of concentration
  • Dimi (metric prefix) – a discontinued non-SI metric prefix for 10−4[3]
  • Fanega – a unit of dry volume, and a unit of area
  • Fresnel – a unit of frequency
  • Garce – a unit of dry volume in India, and a unit of mass in Sri Lanka
  • Hobbit – a unit of volume, or, more rarely, of weight
  • Kula – a unit of area in India, and mass in Morocco
  • Last – a unit of mass or volume
  • League – usually a unit of length, but sometimes a unit of area
  • Leiden scale
  • Mache
  • Mesures usuelles
  • Newton scale – a temperature scale devised by Isaac Newton in 1701.[11][12][13]
  • Perch – most commonly a unit of area, but sometimes a unit of length or volume
  • Pièze – a unit of pressure
  • Rood – a unit of area or length
  • Sack – originally a medieval unit of mass, equal to 26 stone (364 pounds, or about 165 kg). Since a unit of dry volume, equal to 24 imperial gallons (about 109 liters).
  • Schoenus – a unit of area or length
  • Scrupulum – a unit of area, mass, or time
  • Seam – a unit of mass or volume
  • Seer – a unit of mass or volume
  • Toise – a unit of area, length, or volume
  • Tub – usually a unit of mass, but sometimes a unit of volume
  • Uncia – an ancient Roman unit of length, mass, or volume
  • Wey – a unit of mass or volume
  • Winchester measure – a system of volume measurement

See also

By geography


  1. Herlihy, David (2009). Medieval Households. Harvard University Press. p. 69. ISBN 9780674038608.
  2. Lessa or Lecha Unit Converter
  3. Cardarelli, François (2003). Encyclopaedia of Scientific Units, Weights and Measures. Their SI Equivalences and Origins. London: Springer. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-4471-1122-1.
  4. Gilbert, E.W.; Beckinsale, R.P. (1944). Spain & Portugal: Spain. Its Geographical handbook series. Naval Intelligence Division.
  5. Hoong, Tho Lai; Yi, Tho Mun (2008). Interactive Science For Inquiring Minds Volume A. Panpac Education Pte Ltd. p. 33. ISBN 9812716181.
  6. Kisch, Bruno (1965). Scales and Weights. Original from the University of California: Yale University Press. p. 237.
  7. Trudel, Marcel, Introduction to New France, p. 222
  8. lists figures for bottles in Bolivia from 460 ml to 1 liter.
  9. McCusker, John (2005). Essays in the Economic History of the Atlantic World. Routledge. p. 63. ISBN 1134703406.
  10. Pelton, Robert W.; Pelton, W. Pelton (2004). Baking Recipes of Our Founding Fathers. Infinity Publishing. pp. 263–264. ISBN 0741419440.
  11. Published anonymously as "Scala graduum Caloris. Calorum Descriptiones & signa." in Philosophical Transactions. 1701. pp. 824–829.
  12. Nichols, Joannes, ed. (1782). Isaaci Newtoni Opera quae exstant omnia. 4. pp. 403–407.
  13. Silverman, Mark P. (2002), A Universe of Atoms, Springer, p. 49, ISBN 9780387954370

Further reading

  • Encyclopaedia of Historical Metrology, Weights, and Measures; Jan Gyllenbok; Birkhäuser; 2018; 3 Volumes.
  • Historical Metrology: A New Analysis of the Archaeological and the Historical Evidence Relating to Weights and Measures; Algernon Berriman; Praeger; 1970; ISBN 978-0837124247.
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