The Funniest Old English Measurements

It’s no secret that the English language has some pretty fantastic old-timey words, but you probably don’t know most of these. Find out what the world was like when it was divided up into barleycorns, knight’s fees, and hogsheads.

1. Barleycorn

The length of one corn of barley, where three corns was about one inch.

2. Poppyseed

1/4 of a barleycorn.

3. Finger

7/8 of an inch.

4. Nail

2 1/4 inches.

5. Palm

Traditionally the length of a palm with the thumb tucked in, or about 3 inches.

6. Shaftment

Width of the hand with outstretched thumb, 6 1/2 inches before the year 1066, 6 inches thereafter.

7. Rod

Usually a measurement of land, 16 1/2 feet.

8. Chain

Four linear rods.

9. League

About 3 miles, intended to be a one-hour walk.

10. Knight’s Fee

A somewhat arbitrary amount of land that a knight would need to sustain not only himself, but his esquires, horses, equipment, and supplies in times of war.

11. Mouthful

1/2 of a fluid ounce.

12. Pony

Two mouthfuls, or 1 fluid ounce. Also known as a shot.

13. Hogshead

Large barrels typically for storing alcohol, a hogshead of wine is equivalent to 63 US gallons, while a hogshead of beer is 54 gallons.

14. Butt

Two hogsheads, or about 128 gallons.

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