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Comparison of some Imperial and metric units of area
|Unit system||US customary units|
|SI units||4,046.9 m2|
The acre is a unit of land area used in the imperial and US customary systems. It is traditionally defined as the area of one chain by one furlong (66 by 660 feet), which is exactly equal to 10 square chains, of a square mile, or 43,560 square feet, and approximately 4,047 m2, or about 40% of a hectare. Based upon the International yard and pound agreement of 1959, an acre may be declared as exactly 4,046.8564224 square metres. The acre is a statute measure in the United States and was formerly one in the United Kingdom and almost all countries of the former British Empire, although informal use continues.
In the United States both the international acre and the US survey acre are in use, but they differ by only two parts per million: see below. The most common use of the acre is to measure tracts of land.
One acre equals (0.0015625) square mile, 4,840 square yards, 43,560 square feet or about 4,047 square metres (0.4047 hectares) (see below). While all modern variants of the acre contain 4,840 square yards, there are alternative definitions of a yard, so the exact size of an acre depends upon the particular yard on which it is based. Originally, an acre was understood as a selion of land sized at forty perches (660 ft, or 1 furlong) long and four perches (66 ft) wide; this may have also been understood as an approximation of the amount of land a yoke of oxen could plough in one day (a furlong being 'a furrow long'). A square enclosing one acre is approximately 69.57 yards, or 208 feet 9 inches (63.61 metres) on a side. As a unit of measure, an acre has no prescribed shape; any area of 43,560 square feet is an acre.
In the international yard and pound agreement of 1959 the United States and five countries of the Commonwealth of Nations defined the international yard to be exactly 0.9144 metre. By inference, an "international acre" may be declared as exactly 4,046.8564224 square metres but it does not have a basis in any international agreement.
Both the international acre and the US survey acre contain of a square mile or 4,840 square yards, but alternative definitions of a yard are used (see survey foot and survey yard), so the exact size of an acre depends upon which yard it is based. The US survey acre is about 4,046.872609874252 square metres; its exact value ( m2) is based on an inch defined by 1 metre = 39.37 inches exactly, as established by the Mendenhall Order. Surveyors in the United States use both international and survey feet, and consequently, both varieties of acre.
Since the difference between the US survey acre and international acre is only about a quarter of the size of an A4 sheet of paper (0.016 square metres, 160 square centimetres or 24.8 square inches), it is usually not important which one is being discussed. Areas are seldom measured with sufficient accuracy for the different definitions to be detectable.
The acre is commonly used in a number of current and former Commonwealth countries by custom, and in a few it continues as a statutory measure for legal transactions. These include Antigua and Barbuda,American Samoa,The Bahamas, Belize, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands,Canada,Dominica, the Falkland Islands,Grenada,Ghana,Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands,Jamaica,Montserrat,Samoa,Saint Lucia,St. Helena,St. Kitts and Nevis,St. Vincent and the Grenadines,Turks and Caicos, the United Kingdom, the United States and the US Virgin Islands.
Its use as a primary unit for trade in the United Kingdom ceased to be permitted from 1 October 1995, due to the 1994 amendment of the Weights and Measures Act, where it was replaced by the hectare – though its use as a supplementary unit continues to be permitted indefinitely. This was with exemption of Land registration, which records the sale and possession of land, in 2010 HM Land Registry ended its exemption. The measure is still used to communicate with the public, and informally (non-contract) by the farming and property industries.
1 international acre is equal to the following metric units:
1 United States survey acre is equal to:
1 acre (both variants) is equal to the following customary units:
Perhaps the easiest way for US residents to envision an acre is as a rectangle measuring 88 yards by 55 yards ( of 880 yards by of 880 yards), about the size of a standard American football field. To be more exact, one acre is 90.75% of a 100-yd-long by 53.33-yd-wide American football field (without the end zone). The full field, including the end zones, covers about 1.32 acres (0.53 ha).
For residents of other countries, the acre might be envisioned as rather more than half of a 1.76 acres (0.71 ha) Association football (soccer) pitch.
It may also be remembered as 1% short of 44,000 square feet.
The word "acre" is derived from Old English æcer originally meaning "open field", cognate to west coast Norwegian ækre and Swedish åker, German Acker, Dutch akker, Latin ager, Sanskrit ajr, and Greek (agros). In English, it was historically spelled aker.
A possible wording of the Act on the Composition of Yards and Perches, dating from around 1300, is:
It is ordained that 3 grains of barley dry and round do make an inch, 12 inches make 1 foot, 3 feet make 1 yard, 5 yards and a half make a perch, and 40 perches in length and 4 in breadth make an acre.
The acre was roughly the amount of land tillable by a yoke of oxen in one day. This explains one definition as the area of a rectangle with sides of length one chain and one furlong. A long, narrow strip of land is more efficient to plough than a square plot, since the plough does not have to be turned so often. The word "furlong" itself derives from the fact that it is one furrow long.
Before the enactment of the metric system, many countries in Europe used their own official acres. In France, the acre (spelled exactly the same as in English) was used only in Normandy, but its value varied greatly across Normandy, ranging from 3,632 to 9,725 square metres, with 8,172 square metres being the most frequent value. The Normandy acre was usually divided in 4 vergées (roods) and 160 square perches, like the English acre.
The Normandy acre was equal to 1.6 arpents, the unit of area more commonly used in Northern France outside of Normandy. In Canada, the Paris arpent used in Quebec before the metric system was adopted is sometimes called "French acre" in English, even though the Paris arpent and the Normandy acre were two very different units of area in ancient France (the Paris arpent became the unit of area of French Canada, whereas the Normandy acre was never used in French Canada).
In Germany there were many variants of the Acker, differing between the German states:
|Place||Name||Area in m²
||Area in (local)|
|Prussia (1816-1869)||Magdeburg Morgen||2,553.22||180|
|Saxony (1781)||Morgen, Scheffel (Aussaat)||2,767||150|
|Grand Duchy of Baden (from 1810)||Badischer Morgen||3,600||400|
|Württemberg (1806-1871)||Schwäbischer Morgen||3,152||384|
|Bergisches Land||Bergischer Morgen||2,132||120|
|Cologne, Rhineland||Rheinländischer Morgen||3,176||150|
|Hanover (before 1836)||2,608||120|
|Hanover (from 1836)||2,621||120|
|Holstein||Tonne (Tønde)||5,046||240 QGeestR|
|Frankfurt am Main||Feldmorgen||2,025||160 QFeldR|
|Frankfurt am Main||Waldmorgen||3,256||160 QWaldR|
|Altes Land (Harburg und Stade)||8,185|
Statutory values for the acre were enacted in England, and subsequently the United Kingdom, by acts of:
Historically, the size of farms and landed estates in the United Kingdom was usually expressed in acres (or acres, roods, and perches), even if the number of acres was so large that it might conveniently have been expressed in square miles. For example, a certain landowner might have been said to own 32,000 acres of land, not 50 square miles of land.
The acre is related to the square mile, with 640 acres making up one square mile. One mile is 5280 feet (1760 yards). In western Canada and the western United States, divisions of land area were typically based on the square mile, and fractions thereof. If the square mile is divided into quarters, each quarter has a side length of mile (880 yards) and is square mile in area, or 160 acres. These subunits would typically then again be divided into quarters, with each side being mile long, and being of a square mile in area, or 40 acres. In the United States, farmland was typically divided as such, and the phrase "the back 40" would refer to the 40-acre parcel to the back of the farm. Most of the Canadian Prairie Provinces and the US Midwest are on square-mile grids for surveying purposes.