The Weaving Word

Weaving together the threads that make up my passion for the written word…as an author, editor, and follower of The Word.

Medieval Monday!


A furlong measures 1/8 of a mile, but where did that measurement originate? The word dates back to the 9th century, and is “a furrow long”—the distance eight oxen in a plow team can work without rest.

Plowing with Oxen

Other medieval measurements you may not have heard of:

Ell – A measurement of length, from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow.

Gill – a small liquid measure, ranging from a modern shot glass to 1/4 of a pint.

Nail – (1) A measure of weight for wool and beef, equivalent to about 8 pounds. (2) A measure of land. (3) A measure of length for cloth, approximately 1/16th of a yard.
“The precise origin of this sense is not clear. The use of the nail in early examples suggests that one sixteenth from the end of the yard-stick may have been marked by a nail.” (OED)

Span – The distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger, or sometimes to the tip of the forefinger, when the hand is fully extended (about 9 inches).

Mark – A measure of weight, usually for gold and silver.  Though its actual weight could vary a lot, it was considered to be about 8 oz.


About weavingword

Allison D. Reid is a Christian Fantasy author with a fondness for Medieval history. Her first published series, the Wind Rider Chronicles, embraces traditional fantasy elements but is also infused with deeper spiritual themes. The first two books in the series, "Journey to Aviad" and "Ancient Voices: Into the Depths" can be found at Amazon and other online book retailers. "Journey to Aviad" is now FREE. Visit to learn more.

8 comments on “Medieval Monday!

  1. noelleg44
    March 10, 2016

    Really, really interesting! I’d heard of an Ell and a span – but not the others.


  2. Let's CUT the Crap!
    March 7, 2016

    Unbelievable. 😛 Interesting, as well.


  3. Barb Drummond
    March 7, 2016

    A few markets used to have copper markers in the ground to measure cloth. I think there’s still a few in Cheltenham churchyard.


    • weavingword
      March 7, 2016

      Neat! I’d love to see those. 🙂 I really miss getting to experience all those medieval remnants first hand. Nothing here in the US is quite that old.


  4. The Story Reading Ape
    March 7, 2016

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Historical Fiction Authors probably know these, but Nail was a new one to me 🐵


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