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From Middle English mesure, from Old French mesure, from Latin mēnsūra (a measuring, rule, something to measure by), from mēnsus, past participle of mētīrī (to measure, mete). Displaced native Middle English mǣte, mete (measure) (from Old English met (measure), compare Old English mitta (a measure)), Middle English ameten, imeten (to measure) (from Old English āmetan, ġemetan (to mete, measure)), Middle English hof, hoof (measure, reason) (from Old Norse hōf (measure, reason)), Old English mǣþ (measure, degree).



measure (plural measures)

  1. A prescribed quantity or extent.
    1. (obsolete) Moderation, temperance. [13th-19th c.]
      • c. 1390, William Langland, Piers Plowman, I:
        Mesure is medcynee · þouȝ þow moche ȝerne.
      • 1611, Bible, Authorized Version, Jer. XXX:
        I will correct thee in measure, and will not leaue thee altogether vnpunished.
    2. A limit that cannot be exceeded; a bound. (Now chiefly in set phrases.) [from 14th c.]
      • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost, V:
        Full to the utmost measure of what bliss Human desires can seek or apprehend.
      • 2005, J Coarguo, Hávamál: The Words of the High One a Personal Interpretation:
        but there is never found a foolish man who knows the measure of his stomach
      • 2009, Mike Selvey, The Guardian, 25 Aug 2009:
        They have gloried to this day, the tedious interminable big-screen replays of that golden summer irritating beyond measure.
    3. An (unspecified) portion or quantity. [from 16th c.]
      • 2013, Daniel Taylor, Danny Welbeck leads England's rout of Moldova but hit by Ukraine ban (in The Guardian, 6 September 2013)[1]:
        It ended up being a bittersweet night for England, full of goals to send the crowd home happy, buoyed by the news that Montenegro and Poland had drawn elsewhere in Group H but also with a measure of regret about what happened to Danny Welbeck and what it means for Roy Hodgson's team going into a much more difficult assignment against Ukraine.
  2. The act or result of measuring.
    1. (now chiefly cooking) A receptacle or vessel of a standard size, capacity etc. as used to deal out specific quantities of some substance. [from 14th c.]
      a measure of salt
    2. A standard against which something can be judged; a criterion. [from 14th c.]
      • 2011 October 23, Phil McNulty, “Man Utd 1-6 Man City”, in BBC Sport:
        City were also the victors on that occasion 56 years ago, winning 5-0, but this visit was portrayed as a measure of their progress against the 19-time champions.
      Honesty is the true measure of a man.
    3. Any of various standard units of capacity. [from 14th c.]
      The villagers paid a tithe of a thousand measures of corn.
    4. A unit of measurement. [from 14th c.]
      • 1993, Scientific American February 33.3:
        The fragments shrank by increments of about three kilodaltons (a measure of molecular weight).
    5. The size of someone or something, as ascertained by measuring. (Now chiefly in make to measure.) [from 14th c.]
    6. (now rare) The act or process of measuring. [from 14th c.]
      (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)
    7. A ruler, measuring stick, or graduated tape used to take measurements. [from 16th c.]
    8. (mathematics, now rare) A number which is contained in a given number a number of times without a remainder; a divisor or factor. [from 16th c.]
      the greatest common measure of two or more numbers
    9. (geology) A bed or stratum. [from 17th c.]
      coal measures; lead measures
    10. (mathematics) A function that assigns a non-negative number to a given set following the mathematical nature that is common among length, volume, probability and the like. [from 20th c.]
  3. Metrical rhythm.
    1. (now archaic) A melody. [from 14th c.]
    2. (now archaic) A dance. [from 15th c.]
    3. (poetry) The manner of ordering and combining the quantities, or long and short syllables; meter; rhythm; hence, a metrical foot. [from 15th c.]
      a poem in iambic measure
    4. (music) A musical designation consisting of all notes and or rests delineated by two vertical bars; an equal and regular division of the whole of a composition; a bar. [from 17th c.]
  4. A course of action.
    1. (in the plural) Actions designed to achieve some purpose; plans. [from 17th c.]
    2. A piece of legislation. [from 18th c.]
      • 2013 June 8, “Obama goes troll-hunting”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8839, page 55:
        The solitary, lumbering trolls of Scandinavian mythology would sometimes be turned to stone by exposure to sunlight. Barack Obama is hoping that several measures announced on June 4th will have a similarly paralysing effect on their modern incarnation, the patent troll.


  • (musical designation): bar
  • (unit of measurement): metric


Derived termsEdit

Terms derived from the noun measure


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


measure (third-person singular simple present measures, present participle measuring, simple past and past participle measured)

  1. To ascertain the quantity of a unit of material via calculated comparison with respect to a standard.
    • 2013 June 1, “Towards the end of poverty”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8838, page 11:
      But poverty’s scourge is fiercest below $1.25 (the average of the 15 poorest countries’ own poverty lines, measured in 2005 dollars and adjusted for differences in purchasing power): people below that level live lives that are poor, nasty, brutish and short.
    We measured the temperature with a thermometer.   You should measure the angle with a spirit level.
  2. To be of (a certain size), to have (a certain measurement)
    The window measured two square feet.
  3. To estimate the unit size of something.
    I measure that at 10 centimetres.
  4. To judge, value, or appraise.
  5. To obtain or set apart; to mark in even increments.
  6. (rare) To traverse, cross, pass along; to travel over.
    • c. 1590–1591, William Shakespeare, “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act II, scene vii]:
      A true devoted pilgrim is not weary / To measure kingdoms with his feeble steps.
    • 1859, Ferna Vale, Natalie; or, A Gem Among the Sea-Weeds
      "And for a very sensible reason; there never was but one like her; or, that is, I have always thought so until to-day," replied the tar, glancing toward Natalie; "for my old eyes have seen pretty much everything they have got in this little world. Ha! I should like to see the inch of land or water that my foot hasn't measured."
  7. To adjust by a rule or standard.
    • 1650, Jeremy Taylor, The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living
      To secure a contented spirit, you must measure your desires by your fortune and condition, not your fortunes by your desires
  8. To allot or distribute by measure; to set off or apart by measure; often with out or off.

Derived termsEdit

Terms derived from the verb measure


Further readingEdit