Yards & Imperial Length and Distance Units


The yard is defined as 0.9144 metres, this definition was introduced in 1959 by the International Yard & Pound Treaty in the US, the UK and British Commonwealth countries.


The yard is a legal standard unit of measurement in the United States. Although it is no longer a legal unit of measurement in the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth countries it can still occasionally be found, most commonly with the length of cricket pitches (22 yards or 1 chain).

Table of Imperial Length Units

The following table gives Imperial length units with their equivalent size in metres.

Unit Abbreviation As Yards As Metres Notes
inch in 0.027778 0.0254 Used when specifying your height
hand h 0.111111 0.1016 Only used for measuring the height of horses
foot ft 0.333333 0.3048 Used with inches when specifying height of a person
yard yd 1 0.9144 Main unit of length
chain ch 22 20.1168 Length of a cricket pitch
furlong ch 220 201.168 Used for distances of horse races
mile mi 1760 1,609.344 Main unit of distance on road signs

1 yard = 3 feet = 36 inches

1 mile = 8 furlongs = 80 chains = 1760 yards

History & Background

The origin of the yard is unknown but a common story about its origin is that it is the length of the arm of King Henry I of England. The yard was first enshrined in law by the Statute of Ells and Perches dating from around the time of the reign of Edward I (the exact date of its incorporation into law is unknown).

The Weights and Measures Act of 1824 defined the yard by a standard yard that had been produced in 1760. This standard was destroyed in a fire at the Houses of Parliament in 1834 and a new standard was produced in 1845 based on two yard standards held by the Ordnance Survey. The question this leaves is what was used as a standard in the interim period 1834-1845.

In 1897, The Weights and Measures (Metric) Act determined the length of the metre in terms of the inch and thus the metre was 39.370113/36 yards. In 1959 the International Yard and Pound Treaty made the formal definition of the yard as 0.9144 metres and this was formally introduced into British law in 1963.

Conversion Formulae for Imperial Length Measurements

Yards to Metric

  • 1 yard = 0.9144 metres
  • 1 metre = 1.093613 yards

Feet to Metric

  • 1 foot = 0.3048 metres
  • 1 metre = 2.280840 feet

Inches to Metric

  • 1 inch = 0.0254 metres
  • 1 metre = 39.370079 inches

Imperial to metric conversions are exact (as the yard was defined in terms of the metre in 1959), however the metric to imperial conversions are approximate and given to 6 decimal places.


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