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The Origin of the Acre
Where did the word acre come from? This can help us answer the question, "How big is an acre?". We need to look back to primitive England to find out where the word came from, for its origin. The Old English word for acre means "open field."
In those days, an acre referred to the land that is tillable by a group of oxen on a given day. This measurement is not very specific, though. If you or your ox are slow to work, then it reduces the size of your acre. The good thing is that today, the acre has a clearer definition.
But where did the measure 43,560 square feet come from? This is still based on how the acre came to be. Traditionally, an acre's size is found by multiplying a chain by a furlong. A chain is 66 feet and a furlong is 660 feet. So, 66' x 660' = 43,560 square feet.
A chain is the length of a surveyor's measuring device used in surveying, which is 66 feet or 20 m long. A furlong was the length of land that a group of oxen could till before needing to rest. IF you combine these two measurements, you can know the size of the field that a group of oxen could plow in one day, which is an acre.
Measurements of an Acre
You can measure an acre in any shape. It can be a rectangular plot, a circular one, or even a hexagonal piece of land. Whatever the length or width the piece of land has, if you have 43,560 square feet as its total area, then you have an acre. If the land measures a perfect square, then each side will measure 208.71 feet.
An acre is also equivalent to 4,849 square yards, 0.404686 hectares, and 1/640th of a square mile. A square mile (5280 feet x 5280 feet) has 640 acres. This is called a section of land.
The standard acre is not the same in other parts of the world. There are some countries where the measurement of an acre is bigger than the standard. Irish and Scottish acres are some examples. A Scottish acre is equivalent to 1.27 standard acres. The Irish acre is equivalent to 1.6 British or US acres.
And some countries don't even use acres for measuring land. Countries that use the metric system of measurement use hectares instead. Most Spanish speaking countries use hectares to measure tracts of land. It is not the same as acres but a different measurement of land. One acre of land is about 0.40 hectares of land. And this is commonly used in other countries.
US real estate agencies invented the commercial acre. They use this measurement in cities that are large and it is a unit that is legal in a few states in the US. It is a standard unit for measuring an acre but with a deduction for roads, alleyways, and sidewalks. The measure of commercial acre is 82.6 percent of an international acre.
Unless you are numbers-oriented, you don't really grasp the size or how large an acre actually is with the figures given above.
Visualizing the Acre
If you want to really visualize how big an acre is, one good way of doing so is by thinking of a football field. An acre is 75% of a football field. Or the whole football field excluding the end zones and the last 10 yards. If you measure the whole football field, including end zones, you come up with a figure of 57,564 square feet which is equal to 1.32 acres.
If you are not a football fan and you cannot visualize the actual size of a football field, then consider a parking lot. One acre can fit 156 cars with driving lanes. This is possible if the spaces are drawn in the standard grid formation. A parking lot with diagonal spaces and one-way driving lanes can park around 162 cars.
You can also think of tennis courts. One acre can fit 16 tennis courts in a 4x4 formation.
If you are more familiar with a soccer field, then one acre is around 2/3 or 60% of the field. The optimal size of a soccer field is between 69,000 and 86,000 square feet, according to FIFA.
If you are someone who enjoys the RV lifestyle, you can think of an acre of land as accommodating between 10 to 15 campsites, on average.
For baseball fans, the average baseball field is bigger than an acre. From home to center field the fence is around 400 feet. Between each base, there are 90 feet and placed at 90-degree angles from each other. Only all of the infield and the inner half of the outfield would occupy an acre of land.
An NBA basketball court measures 94' in length and 50' in width. Its total area is 4,700 square feet. This is about 0.11 of an acre.
One acre of land can fit eighteen (18) 2,400 square foot homes.
All the examples above could somehow make you now grasp how big an acre actually is. You can see that it is really big. But sometimes you get to deal with properties in multiples of an acre. Here are some interesting facts that go with this line of thinking.
Some Interesting Acre Facts
A city block can be between 2 to 5 acres. This will depend on where you live. But most cities have blocks that are 660 feet by 330 feet which is 217,800 square feet or exactly 5 acres. However, this varies with every city.
New York City's total area is approximately 300,000 acres or 468.9 square miles. This is according to the US Census. Central Park is 843 acres.
Farm sizes in Washington State measure 375 acres on average.
The White House stands on land which measures 18 acres while the capitol building in Ohio sits on land which is 10 acres.
Alcatraz's main prison block, its dining area, and the administration wing in the middle of the Bay Area prison measures a little over one acre. There are 22 acres covering the entire island.
The Wrigley Field in Chicago measures a total of two acres.
There are 100 acres covering the Mall of America. But the full capacity of this massive structure is definitely bigger. There are skylights in the mall that cover eight acres. It could also accommodate 43 Boeing 747s.
The footprint of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC is around an acre. The site has millions of visitors each year.
New York Harbor's Liberty Island is 15 acres in area. The Statue of Liberty is its main attraction. This statue has a 35-foot waistline, an 8-foot face, and weighs 225 tons.
The Pentagon, the US military's five-sided HQ, covers 35 acres. It is a WWII-era federal building that stands on 6.5 million square feet and has 17 miles of corridors to be the world's largest office complex.
The Amazon Rainforest measures approximately 1,359,079,598 acres or 2,123,564 square miles.
The Colosseum in Rome, Italy covers a base of approximately six acres.
The Parthenon in Athens, Greece is 0.75 acres and is situated on top of the Acropolis which is 7.5 acres.
Queen Elizabeth legally owns 6,600 million acres of land worldwide. Her London home measures about 10 acres in the immediate ground but the whole Buckingham Palace together with its grounds and gardens measure around 40 acres.
The moon's surface area has been estimated to be approximately 9,383,748,198 acres or 14,657,415 square miles.
Fun Facts About How Big One Acre Really Is
There can be 400 vines planted in one acre. This can produce 322 cases of wine.
Crayons are made of soybean oil. One acre of soybeans can produce over 80,000 crayons.
One acre of wheat can produce enough bread for a family of four to eat for 10 years.
You can make over 25,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from one acre of peanuts.
For a more everyday example of the measurement of an acre, let's think of sticky notes. An acre is around 696,960 pieces of sticky notes.
If you are talking to a little child and want to explain an acre to him, this example is one that is everyday enough. One acre equals 2,787,840 pieces of dinosaur chicken nuggets.