furlong

A unit of length in English-speaking countries, at least as early as the 10th century – present,  = 220 yards (since 1959 in the United States or 1963 in the UK, = 201.168 meters exactly). link to a table showing relationships between English units of length Today it is used almost exclusively to describe distances to be run in horse races. Abbreviation, “fur”.

The word comes from “furrow long”; see acre.

Cyril Hart¹ has pointed out the earliest known written record of the furlong as a unit of length, in the description of the boundary of Bury St. Edmunds in a charter dated 945:

...swa forþ an furlang be easten Bromleage...²

...so forth a furlong eastwards to Bromleage...

From the 9th to the 18th century, the Latin stadium and Greek stadion were ordinarily translated as “furlong”.  The fact that the Roman mile passus = 8 stadia may have lead to the idea that the mile was 8 furlongs, and thus influenced the size of the English statute mile, which is also 8 furlongs. See R. D. Connor's discussion.

1. Cyril Hart.
The Danelaw.
London and Rio Grande: Hambledon Press, 1992.
Page 66.

2. P. H. Sawyer.
Anglo-Saxon Charters: an Annotated List and Bibliography.
London: Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks, viii, 1968.
Charter 507.

2

In Scotland, a unit of length, = 40 falls = 740 feet = 225.552 meters.

3

In England, a unit of land area, = a square furlong = 10 acres.

4

In England, a unit of land area, = ⅛ acre.

sources

FURLONG; this is Long-Measure; and one Furlong for the most part consists of 43 Poles, and every Pole 16 Foot and an half; as eight Furlongs makes one English Mile. It's otherwise the 8th part of an Acre; yet it's found by an old Book, Printed in Henry VIII.'s Time, that six hundred foot, (by five score to the Hundred) make a Furlong. Sometimes 'tis used for a piece of Land, of more or less Acres.

Worlidge, 1704.

Notice that 43 poles each 16½ feet long makes a 709½-foot furlong and a 5676-foot mile. “43” is probably a typo. But the 600-foot furlong, and its 4800-foot mile, is worth some attention.

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