Etymology
Advertisement

mile (n.)

unit of linear measure in Great Britain, the U.S., and a few other countries, formerly used in most European countries before the metric system; Old English mil, from West Germanic *milja (source also of Middle Dutch mile, Dutch mijl, Old High German mila, German Meile), from Latin milia "thousands," plural of mille "a thousand" (neuter plural was mistaken in Germanic as a fem. singular), which is of unknown origin.

The Latin word also is the source of French mille, Italian miglio, Spanish milla. The Scandinavian words (Old Norse mila, etc.) are from English. An ancient Roman mile was 1,000 double paces (one step with each foot), for about 4,860 feet, but many local variants developed, in part in an attempt to reconcile the mile with the agricultural system of measurements. Consequently, old European miles were of various lengths. The medieval English mile was 6,610 feet; the old London mile was 5,000 feet. In Germany, Holland, and Scandinavia in the Middle Ages, the Latin word was applied arbitrarily to the ancient Germanic rasta, a measure of from 3.25 to 6 English miles. In England the ordinary mile was set by legal act at 320 perches (5,280 feet) by statute in Elizabeth's reign.

In Middle English the word also was a unit of time, "about 20 minutes," roughly what was required to walk a mile. The word has been used generically since 1580s for "a great distance." Mile-a-minute (adj.) "very fast" is attested from 1957 in railroad publications (automobiles had attained 60 mph by 1903).

Others are reading

Advertisement
Advertisement
Definitions of mile

mile (n.)
a unit of length equal to 1,760 yards or 5,280 feet; exactly 1609.344 meters;
Synonyms: statute mile / stat mi / land mile / international mile / mi
mile (n.)
a unit of length used in navigation; exactly 1,852 meters; historically based on the distance spanned by one minute of arc in latitude;
Synonyms: nautical mile / mi / naut mi / international nautical mile / air mile
mile (n.)
a large distance;
he missed by a mile
mile (n.)
a former British unit of length once used in navigation; equivalent to 6,000 feet (1828.8 meters);
Synonyms: sea mile
mile (n.)
a former British unit of length equivalent to 6,080 feet (1,853.184 meters); 800 feet longer than a statute mile;
Synonyms: nautical mile / naut mi / mi / geographical mile / Admiralty mile
mile (n.)
an ancient Roman unit of length equivalent to 1620 yards;
Synonyms: Roman mile
mile (n.)
a Swedish unit of length equivalent to 10 km;
Synonyms: mil / Swedish mile
mile (n.)
a footrace extending one mile;
he holds the record in the mile
From wordnet.princeton.edu