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German units of measurement

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The units of measurement of German-speaking countries consist of a variety of units, with varying local standard definitions. While many were made redundant with the introduction of the metric system, some of these units are still used in everyday speech and even in stores and on street markets as shorthand for similar amounts in the metric system. For example, some customers ask for one pound (ein Pfund) of something when they want 500 grams.

The metric system became compulsory on 1 January 1872, in Germany and on 1 January 1876, in Austria.[1]

Some obsolete German units have names similar to units that were traditionally used in other countries, and that are still used in a limited number of cases in the United Kingdom (imperial units) and fully in the United States (United States customary units).

German system

Before the introduction of the metric system in German, almost every town had its own definitions of the units shown below. Often towns posted local definitions on a wall of the city hall. For example, the front wall of the old city hall of Rudolstadt (still standing) has two marks which show the “Rudolstädter Elle”, the proper length of the Elle in that city. Supposedly by 1810 there were 112 different standards for the Elle around Germany. [citation needed]

“...the measure of cloth, for example, was elle which in each region stood for a different length. An elle of textile material brought in Frankfurt would get you 54.7 cm of cloth, in Mainz 55.1 cm, in Nuremberg 65.6 cm, in Freiburg 53.5 cm...”


Meile (mile)

A German geographic mile (geographische Meile) is defined as 115 equatorial degrees, equal to 7,420.54 m (24,345.6 ft). A common German mile, land mile, or post mile (Gemeine deutsche Meile, Landmeile, Postmeile) was defined in various ways at different places and different times. After the introduction of the metric system in the 19th century, the Landmeile was generally fixed at 7,500 m (24,606 ft) (the Reichsmeile), but before then there were many local and regional variants (of which some are shown below):

Some kinds of Meile
Place Distance
in metres (feet)
Breslau (Wrocław) 6,700 m (22,000 ft) Used in all Silesia[2][3]
Bavaria (Bayern) 7,415 m (24,327 ft) Connected to a 115 equatorial degree as 25,406 Bavarian feet.
Württemberg 7,449 m (24,439 ft)
Reichsmeile 7.5 km (4.7 mi)
7,500 m (24,606 ft)
'imperial mile' – New mile when the metric system was introduced. Prohibited by law in 1908.
Anhalt 7,532 m (24,711 ft)
Denmark, Prussia 7,532 m (24,711 ft) 24,000 Prussian feet. Also known as "(Dänische/Preußische) Landmeile". In 1816, king Frederick William III of Prussia adopted the Danish mile at 7,532 m (24,711 ft), or 24,000 Prussian feet.
Saxony (Sachsen) 7,500 m (24,606 ft) In the 17th–18th century or so, 9,062 m (29,731 ft) = 32,000 (Saxon) feet; later 7,500 m (24,606 ft) (as in Prussia and the rest of Germany).
Schleswig-Holstein 8,803 m (28,881 ft)
Baden 8,000 m (26,247 ft) 8889 m before 1810, 8,944 m (29,344 ft) before 1871
Hesse-Kassel 9,206 m (30,203 ft)
Lippe-Detmold 9,264 m (30,394 ft)
Saxony (Sachsen) 9,062 m (29,731 ft) 32,000 (Saxon) feet (in the 19th century 7,500 m or 24,606 ft see above).
Westfalia (Westfalen) 11,100 m (36,417 ft) but also 9,250 m (30,348 ft)
Oldenburg 9,894 m (32,461 ft)
Rhineland (Rheinland) 4,119 m (13,514 ft)
Palatinate (Pfalz) 4,630 m (15,190 ft)
Osnabrück/France 5,160 m (16,929 ft)
Wiesbaden 1,000 m (3,281 ft)


One hour's travel, used up to the 19th century. In Germany 12 Meile or 3.71 km (2.31 mi). After 1722 in Saxony 12 post mile = 1000 Dresden rods = 4531 m.[4] In Switzerland 16,000 ft or 4.88 km.

Fuß (foot)

The Fuß or German foot varied widely from place to place in the German-speaking world, and also with time. In some places, more than one type of Fuß was in use. One source from 1830[5] gives the following values:

Some kinds of Fuß
Place Name Local equivalent Metric (Imperial/US) equivalents
Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) Feldmaßfuß 16 Klafter 282 mm (11.10 in)
Aachen Baufuß 116 Ruthe 288 mm (11.34 in)
Aargau, Canton of Fuß 300 mm (11.81 in)
Aichstadt, Bavaria old Fuß 307 mm (12.09 in)
Altona, Holstein Fuß 286 mm (11.26 in)
Anspach, Bavaria Werkfuß 299 mm (11.77 in)
Appenzell, Canton of Fuß 313 mm (12.32 in)
Aschaffenberg, Bavaria Fuß 288 mm (11.34 in)
Augsburg, Bavaria Werkschuh 296 mm (11.65 in)
Baden Reichsfuß 10 Zoll, 110 Ruthe 300 mm (11.81 in)
Baireuth, Bavaria Fuß 298 mm (11.73 in)
Bamberg, Bavaria Fuß 303 mm (11.93 in)
Basel, Canton of Stadtschuh 304 mm (11.97 in)
Bavaria Fuß 292 mm (11.50 in)
Bergamo, Austria Fuß 16 Cavezzo 435 mm (17.13 in)
Berlin Prussian Reichsfuß 313.8536 mm (12.36 in)[6]
Bern, Canton of gewöhnlicher Fuß 12 Zoll 298 mm (11.73 in)
Bern, Canton of Steinbrecherfuß 13 Zoll 317 mm (12.48 in)
Bohemia Fuß or Stopa 296 mm (11.65 in)
Bozen, Austria Tyroler-Fuß 334 mm (13.15 in)
Braunschweig (Brunswick) Fuß 116 Ruthe 285 mm (11.22 in)
Bremen Fuß 116 Ruthe 289 mm (11.38 in)
Breslau old Silesian Fuß 116 Ruthe 283 mm (11.14 in)
Bünden, Canton of churischer Fuß 322 mm (12.68 in)
Calenberg Land Fuß 116 Ruthe 292 mm (11.50 in)
Carlsruhe (as Baden) Fuß 300 mm (11.81 in)
Cassel, Hessen Fuß 114 Ruthe 287 mm (11.30 in)
Cleve, Prussia Fuß 295 mm (11.61 in)
Cöln am Rhein (Cologne), Prussia Fuß 287 mm (11.30 in)
Cremona, Austria old Fuß 480 mm (18.90 in)
Danzig, Prussia old Fuß 12 Elle 287 mm (11.30 in)
Darmstadt Hessian Reichsfuß 10 Zoll 250 mm (9.84 in)
Darmstadt old Darmstadt Fuß 12 Zoll 288 mm (11.34 in)
Dordrecht, Netherlands Fuß 361 mm (14.21 in)
Dresden, Saxony Fuß 260 mm (10.24 in)
Duderstadt, Hanover Fuß 290 mm (11.42 in)
Durlach (as Baden) Fuß 300 mm (11.81 in)
Durlach old Fuß 291 mm (11.46 in)
Emden, Hanover Fuß 296 mm (11.65 in)
Erfurt, Prussia old Fuß 114 Feldruthe, 116 Bauruthe 283 mm (11.14 in)
Frankfurt am Main Fuß 285 mm (11.22 in)
Freiburg, Canton of Werkfuß 12 Zoll, 110 Werkklafter 293 mm (11.54 in)
Friedberg in der Wetterau, Oberhessen Fuß 291 mm (11.46 in)
Friedrichsstadt, Denmark Fuß 296 mm (11.65 in)
Fulda, Kurhessen Werkfuß 12 Elle 250 mm (9.84 in)
Genf (Geneva), Canton of Fuß 18 Ruthe 325 mm (12.80 in)
Gießen, Oberhessen Fuß 298 mm (11.73 in)
Glarus, Canton of Fuß 300 mm (11.81 in)
Glatz, Prussia Werkfuß 287 mm (11.30 in)
Göttingen, Hanover Fuß 291 mm (11.46 in)
Gotha, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Fuß 287 mm (11.30 in)
Halle an der Saale, Prussia Werkfuß 288 mm (11.34 in)
Halle an der Saale, Prussia Feldfuß 433 mm (17.05 in)
Hamburg Fuß 16 Klafter, 116 Geestruthe 286 mm (11.26 in)
Hanau, Hessen Fuß 225 Ruthe 285 mm (11.22 in)
Hanover, capital of the Kingdom Fuß 12 Elle, 116 Ruthe 292 mm (11.50 in)
Heidelberg, Baden Fuß 278 mm (10.94 in)
Heilbronn, Württemberg Fuß 278 mm (10.94 in)
Heiligenstadt, Prussia old Fuß 283 mm (11.14 in)
Herford, Prussia old Fuß 295 mm (11.61 in)
Hildesheim, Hanover Fuß 116 Ruthe 280 mm (11.02 in)
Holstein Fuß 296 mm (11.65 in)
Innsbruck, Austria Tyroler-Fuß 317 mm (12.48 in)
Königsberg, Prussia old Fuß 115 Ruthe 307 mm (12.09 in)
Krakau Fuß or Stopa 356 mm (14.02 in)
Lausanne, Canton of Waadt Fuß 293 mm (11.54 in)
Leipzig, Saxony gewöhnlicher Fuß 12 Elle, 16 Klafter 116 Ruthe 282 mm (11.10 in)
Lemberg, Austria Galizian Fuß 297 mm (11.69 in)
Lemgo, Lippe Fuß 287 mm (11.30 in)
Lindau, Bavaria Fuß 307 mm (12.09 in)
Lindau, Bavaria Feldmeßschuh, Bauschuh 289 mm (11.38 in)
Linz, Austria Fuß Klafter 303 mm (11.93 in)
Lübeck Fuß 291 mm (11.46 in)
Lucern, Canton of Fuß (for wood measure) 314 mm (12.36 in)
Lucern, Canton of Zimmerwerkschuh 304 mm (11.97 in)
Lucern, Canton of Bau- and Feldmeßschuh 284 mm (11.18 in)
Milan, Austria old Fuß 398 mm (15.67 in)
Mainz, Hessen Werkfuß 314 mm (12.36 in)
Mainz, Hessen Kameralfuß (for firewood) 287 mm (11.30 in)
Mannheim, Baden Fuß 290 mm (11.42 in)
Mecklenburg Fuß 12 Elle, 116 Ruthe 291 mm (11.46 in)
Metz, France old Fuß 406 mm (15.98 in)
Mühlhausen, Prussia Fuß 116 Ruthe 281 mm (11.06 in)
Neufchatel, Principality of Werkfuß 293 mm (11.54 in)
Neufchatel, Principality of Feldmeßfuß 318 mm (12.52 in)
Nordhausen, Prussia old Fuß 292 mm (11.50 in)
Nuremberg, Bavaria Stadtfuß 116 Ruthe 304 mm (11.97 in)
Nuremberg, Bavaria Artillery Fuß 292 mm (11.50 in)
Oldenburg Fuß 120 Ruthe 296 mm (11.65 in)
Osnabrück, Hanover Fuß 279 mm (10.98 in)
Padua, Austria Fuß 16 Cavezzo 428 mm (16.85 in)
Prague, Austria Bohemian Fuß or Česká stopa 296 mm (11.65 in)
Prussia, Rheinland Reichsfuß 313.8536 mm (12.36 in)[6]
Ratzeburg, Mecklenburg-Schwerin Fuß 291 mm (11.46 in)
Regensburg, Bavaria Fuß 313 mm (12.32 in)
Rheinbaiern Fuß 12 Zoll, 13 metre 333 mm (13.11 in)
Rheinland Rheinländischer Fuß 313.8536 mm (12.36 in)[6]
Rostock, Mecklenburg-Schwerin Fuß 12 Elle, 116 Ruthe 286 mm (11.26 in)
Sanct Gallen, Canton of Fuß 313 mm (12.32 in)
Schaffhausen, Canton of Fuß 298 mm (11.73 in)
Silesia (Austrian part) Fuß 289 mm (11.38 in)
Solothurn, Canton of Fuß 293 mm (11.54 in)
Stade, Hanover Fuß 291 mm (11.46 in)
Stettin, Prussia old Pomeranian Fuß 285 mm (11.22 in)
Stralsund, Prussia old Fuß 291 mm (11.46 in)
Strassburg, France Fuß 289 mm (11.38 in)
Stuttgart Reichsfuß 12 Elle, 110 Ruthe 286 mm (11.26 in)
Tessin, Canton of Fuß 397 mm (15.63 in)
Thorn, Prussia old Fuß 297 mm (11.69 in)
Trento, Austria Fuß 366 mm (14.41 in)
Trier, Prussia Land- and Werkfuß 294 mm (11.57 in)
Trier, Prussia Waldfuß 310 mm (12.20 in)
Trier, Prussia Zimmermannsfuß 305 mm (12.01 in)
Tyrol, Austria Fuß 334 mm (13.15 in)
Udine, Austria Fuß 329 mm (12.95 in)
Ulm, Württemberg Fuß 289 mm (11.38 in)
Venice, Austria Fuß 15 Passo 348 mm (13.70 in)
Verden, Hanover Fuß 291 mm (11.46 in)
Verona, Austria Fuß 16 Cavezzo 347 mm (13.66 in)
Vienna, Austria Fuß 16 Klafter 316 mm (12.44 in)
Waadt, Canton of Fuß 10 Zoll, 110 Ruthe 300 mm (11.81 in)
Wallis, Canton of Fuß 325 mm (12.80 in)
Weimar Fuß 282 mm (11.10 in)
Wesel, Prussia old Fuß 236 mm (9.29 in)
Wetzlar, Prussia old Fuß 274 mm (10.79 in)
Wiesbaden, Nassau Fuß 288 mm (11.34 in)
Wismar, Mecklenburg-Schwerin Fuß 292 mm (11.50 in)
Wittenberg, Prussia old Fuß 283 mm (11.14 in)
Worbis, Prussia old Fuß 286 mm (11.26 in)
Württemberg Reichsfuß 12 Elle, 110 Ruthe 286 mm (11.26 in)
Würzburg, Bavaria Fuß 12 Elle 294 mm (11.57 in)
Zug, Canton of Fuß 301 mm (11.85 in)
Zug, Canton of Steinfuß 268 mm (10.55 in)
Zürich, Canton of Fuß 16 Klafter, 110 Ruthe 301 mm (11.85 in)
Except where noted, based on Niemann (1830).[5] The values of the other local units mentioned also varied widely.

Rute (rod)

A standard at the City Hall in Münster, Germany from 1816; the bar shown is one "Prussian half rod" long.

The Rute or Ruthe is of Carolingian origin,[citation needed] and was used as a land measure. Many different kinds of Ruthe were used at various times in various parts of the German-speaking world. They were subdivided into differing numbers of local Fuß, and were of many different lengths. One source from 1830[5] lists the following:

Some kinds of Ruthe
Place Name Local equivalent Metric (Imperial/US) equivalents
Aachen (Aix-la-Capelle) Feldmeßruthe 16 Fuß 4.512 m (14 ft 9.6 in)
Baden Ruthe 10 Fuß 3 m (9 ft 10 in)
Basel, Canton of Ruthe 16 Fuss 4.864 m (15 ft 11.5 in)
Bern, Canton of Ruthe 10 Fuss 2.932 m (9 ft 7.4 in)
Braunschweig (Brunswick) Ruthe 16 Fuß 4.565 m (14 ft 11.7 in)
Bremen Ruthe 8 Ellen or 16 Fuß 4.626 m (15 ft 2.1 in)
Calenberg Ruthe 16 Fuß 4.677 m (15 ft 4.1 in)
Cassel, Hessen Ruthe 14 Fuß 4.026 m (13 ft 2.5 in)
Hamburg Geestruthe 16 Fuß 4.583 m (15 ft 0.4 in)
Hamburg Marschruthe 14 Fuß 4.010 m (13 ft 1.9 in)
Hannover Ruthe 16 Fuß 4.671 m (15 ft 3.9 in)
Lever, Oldenburg Ruthe 20 Fuß 4.377 m (14 ft 4.3 in)
Mecklenburg Ruthe 16 Fuß 4.655 m (15 ft 3.3 in)
Nuremberg, Bavaria Ruthe 16 Fuß 4.861 m (15 ft 11.4 in)
Oldenburg Ruthe 20 Fuß 5.927 m (19 ft 5.3 in)
Prussia, Rheinland Ruthe 12 Fuß 3.766 m (12 ft 4.3 in)
Saxony Ruthe 16 Leipziger Fuß 4.512 m (14 ft 9.6 in)
Württemberg Reichsruthe 10 Fuß 2.865 m (9 ft 4.8 in)
Württemberg old Ruthe 16 Fuß 4.583 m (15 ft 0.4 in)
Zürich, Canton of Ruthe 10 Fuss 3.009 m (9 ft 10.5 in)
Except where noted, based on Niemann (1830).[5] The value of the local Fuß also varied widely.


Originally 6 feet, after introduction of the metric system 10 feet.[dubious ] Regional variants from 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in) in Baden to 3 m (9 ft 10 in) in Switzerland.


The Lachter was the most common unit of length used in mining in German-speaking areas. Its exact length varied from place to place but was roughly between 1.9 and 2.1 metres (6 ft 3 in and 6 ft 11 in).

Elle (ell)

Distance between elbow and fingertip. In the North, often 2 feet, In Prussia 178 feet, in the South variable, often 2+12 feet. The smallest known German Elle is 402.8 mm (15.86 in), the longest 811 mm (31.9 in).

Zoll (inch)

Usually 112 foot, but also 111 and 110.


Usually 112 inch, but also 110.



Being 1/5 of any measure


Is a larger volumen unit of around one large sack of wheat a person could carry. However, the exact volumetric size and weight was locally very different in each feudal state. For more details, see [1].


For firewood, 2.905 m3 (102.6 cu ft)


In general, the Nösel (also spelled Össel) was a measure of liquid volume equal to half a Kanne ("jar," "jug," "bottle," "can"). Volume often varied depending on whether it was beer or wine. Its subdivisions were the Halbnösel ("Half-Nösel") and the Viertelnösel ("Quarter-Nösel).

An Ahm was a measure used for wine or beer. An Eimer ("Bucket") was a container that was a fifth of an Ahm. A Viertel ("Fourth") was a fourth of an Eimer. A Stübchen ("Cozy Room") also a Stauf was a measure of wine or beer that was equal to 2 Kannen. It was the approximate amount of wine or beer that could serve an entire room in a tavern. A Kanne was a measure of wine or beer large enough to fill a humpen (tankard) or krug (wine flagon or beer pitcher). A Quartier ("quarter-measure") was a fourth of a Stübchen. A Nösel was a cup or mug of wine or beer.

Actual volumes so measured, however, varied from one state or even one city to another. Within Saxony, for example, the "Dresden jar" held approximately 1 US quart or 0.95 litres or 0.83 imperial quarts, so a nösel in Dresden was about 1 US pint (0.47 L; 0.83 imp pt). The full volume of a "Leipzig jar" measured 1.2 liters (1.3 U.S. qt; 1.1 imp qt); the Leipzig nösel was therefore 0.6 liters (0.63 U.S. qt; 0.53 imp qt).

1320 Ahm = 164 Eimer = 116 Viertel = 18 Stübchen / Stauf = 14 Kannen = 12 Quartiers = 1 Nösel = 2 Halbnöseln = 4 Viertelnöseln

The nösel was used in minor commerce, as well as in the household to measure meal, grain, and such. These units of measure were officially valid in Saxony until 1868, when the metric system was introduced. Nevertheless, the old measures have continued in private use for decades.

One modification was introduced in Thuringia. There, the nösel was, by extension, also a measure of area; namely, the area of land which could be sown with one nösel of seed — or about 19.36 square yards (16.19 m2; 0.00400 acres)


This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "German units of measurement" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (September 2023) (Learn how and when to remove this message)



12 Pfund. Equal to 233.856 g (Cologne).


116 of a Pfund. Roughly equal to 29.23 g.


132 of a Pfund, or 116 of a Mark. Equal to 14.606 g (Prussia).


196 of a Pfund. Roughly equal to 4.872 g.


1128 of a Pfund. Roughly equal to 3.65 g.


1512 of a Pfund. Roughly equal to 0.9135 g.


17690 of a Pfund. Roughly equal to 0.0609 g.

See also


  1. ^ Barnard, Frederick Augustus Porter (1879). The Metric system of weights and measures. American Metric Bureau. pp. 220–2. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  2. ^ Harasimowicz, Jan [in Polish]; Suleja, Włodzimierz [in Polish] (2000). Encyklopedia Wrocławia (in Polish) (Wyd. 1 ed.). Wrocław: Wydawn. Dolnośląskie. ISBN 9788370237493. OCLC 46420892.
  3. ^ Davies, Norman; Moorhouse, Roger (2002). Mikrokosmos : portret miasta środkowoeuropejskiego : Vratislava, Breslau, Wrocław (in Polish). Translated by Pawelec, Andrzej (Wyd. 1 ed.). Kraków: Wydawn. Znak. ISBN 9788324001729. OCLC 50928641.
  4. ^ "Historie der Postsäulen" (in German). Forschungsgruppe Kursächsische Postmeilensäulen e.V. und 1. Sächsischer Postkutschenverein e.V. Archived from the original on 5 February 2017. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d Niemann, Friedrich (1830) Vollständiges Handbuch der Münzen, Masse, und Gewichte aller Länder der Erde fur Kaufleute, Banquiers ... : in alphabetischer Ordnung. Quedlinburg und Leipzig, G. Basse. p. 286
  6. ^ a b c Tate (1868), p. 49


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German units of measurement
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