How Big Is An Acre? Explained
In this article we're going to look at the acre - a unit of area commonly used for measuring tracts of land. Did you know that during the Middle Ages, an acre was defined as the amount of land ploughable in one day by one man and an ox? Not very specific, then - especially if your ox is feeling particularly lethargic. Thankfully, these days the acre unit is more clearly defined.
Ox at the ready, let's take a look at the task at hand. Perhaps you're considering purchasing a new property attached to several acres of land and you're trying to visualise how big it is? Or, maybe you're studying for an exam and want to know how to convert between acres and square feet, square meters or hectares? Well, look no further. Let's start with the facts...
Dimensions of an acre
An acre can be measured in any shape, from rectangles to circles, or even hexagons. It can have any length and width so long as the total area of land is 43,560 square feet.
- 1 acre = 43,560 square feet
- 1 acre = 4046.86 square meters
- 1 acre = 4840 square yards
- 1 acre = 0.404686 hectares
- 1 acre = 1/640th of a square mile
The most common shape for an acre is 1 furlong by 1 chain, or 660 feet by 66 feet.
How big is an acre compared to a football pitch?
If you're struggling to get your head around how big an acre is and want to know what an acre looks like, try visualising 60% of a soccer pitch, 75% of an American football field or 16 tennis courts in a 4x4 formation. If that doesn't help, consider a car park containing 150 cars parked in a square.
Football pitch measurements (acres and square feet)
- A soccer pitch commonly measures between 69,000 and 86,000 square feet (1.6 - 1.9 acres) (FIFA)
- An American football field commonly measures around 57,564 square feet (1.32 acres)
How many acres are in a square mile?
One square mile is equal to 640 acres. To calculate how many acres there are in your area of land, simply multiply your square mile figure by 640.
What is a commercial acre?
A visitor recently asked the question 'Why is a commercial acre different to a residential acre?' The commercial acre was invented by US real estate agencies for use in large cities and is a legal unit in some US states. It is said to be a standard acre unit with a deduction for alleyways, roads and sidewalks. The commercial acre is 82.6 percent of an international acre and you'll notice it's a rounded figure, for ease of calculation.
- 1 commercial acre = 36,000 square feet
- 1 commercial acre = 4000 square yards
- 1 commercial acre = 3342.8 square meters
U.S. land surveys
When surveying land in the United States, the primary, modern definition of an acre is 1/640th of a square mile. That is to say, there are 640 acres in a square mile or a "section".
Generally, for survey purposes, there are 36 sections in a township. A township is measured as a square with 6 miles on a side and a section is measured as a square with one mile on a side.
Of course, if you want an exact measurement conversion for land acreage then this handy conversion tool will help you...
How to convert acres to...
If you want to convert between other units of area, take a look at our area converter.
Before we finish this article, here are some interesting acre facts for you to ponder on:
How many acres?
- The Amazon Rainforest measures approximately 1,359,079,598 acres. (2,123,561 square miles), but is decreasing at an ever-quickening rate.
- It has been reported that 2 acres of the Amazon Rainforest are being cleared every minute, to make way for farming land.
- According to the United States Census, the total area of New York City measures approximately 300,000 acres (468.9 square miles), although that figure includes water. By comparison, the area of Greater London measures approximately 388,000 acres (606.95 square miles).
- The gardens at Buckingham Palace measure 40 acres and include a helicopter landing pad.
- It has been estimated that the surface area of the moon measures approximately 9,383,748,198 acres (14,657,415 square miles). (source: Space Settlement Institute)
- A single acre of wheat can be enough to produce around 3,000 loaves of bread (if baked properly)
- Approximately 100 acres of pizza are consumed in the United States every day. 3 billion pizzas are sold each year (350 slices every second). (ref)
Questions or comments? Join in the discussion below. Alternatively, read our next article in which we look at how big a hectare is.
Written by Alastair Hazell
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Last update: 03 July 2019