Each of the states of what is now Germany was an independent country for most of the nineteenth century. The largest was Prussia, and the length units used in that country prior to adoption of the metric system are listed below.

No actual Prussian standards are definitively known by the present day, so the only way of determining the length of any Prussian unit would be to measure something in modern terms whose length was given by the Prussians in their units. And because this procedure does not give us any clue to which unit may have been the base unit and which were subsidiary units, this distinction really does not apply to the Prussian units here given, so all the units really have equal status. However, most references appear to have treated the Fuss (Prussian foot) as the base unit, expressing other units in terms of this unit. However (see photo) some cities seem to have had standards based on other units. The modern values given in this wiki are based on the value of 0.313857 m[1] for the length of the Fuss (Prussian foot). In 1872, the German Empire was formed, and this system (as well as all other traditional local systems) was abolished in Germany.


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

Note that the Ruthe is sometimes rendered yard, as in Cardarelli, but is much longer than the International yard, and is better rendered as rod, a more literal translation. (It is rather shorter than the International rod, however, only approximately ¾ the length of that unit.) The Meile is far longer than the common mile in most other systems, though clearly the name comes from the same source.

Name of unit Translation Value in terms of smaller units Value in terms of the meter Value in terms of United States customary measure
Linie line 0.0021795625 0.0858095 in.
Zoll inch 12 Linien 0.02615475 1.029715 in. = 0.08581 ft
Fuss foot 12 Zölle 0.313857 1.029715 ft = 0.343238 yd
Elle ell 2⅛ Füsse 0.666946125 2.188143 ft = 0.729381 yd
Ruthe "yard," but better rod 511/17 Ellen 3.766284 4.11886 yd = 0.00234 mi
Meile mile 2000 Ruthen 7532.568 4.681 mi


  1. Cardarelli, François (1998). Scientific Unit Conversion. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 3-540-76022-9. 

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