Imperial units

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Imperial units or the imperial system is a system of units, first defined in the British Weights and Measures Act of 1824, later refined (until 1959) and reduced. The system came into official use across the British Empire. By the late 20th century most nations of the former empire had officially adopted the metric system as their main system of measurement.


Relation to other systems

The imperial system is one of many systems of English or foot-pound-second units, so named because of the base units of length, mass and time. Although most of the units are defined in more than one system, some subsidiary units were used to a much greater extent, or for different purposes, in one area rather than the other. The distinctions between these systems are often not drawn precisely.

One such system is the US customary system, which is historically derived from units which were in use in England at the time of settlement. Because the United States was already independent at the time, these units were unaffected by the introduction of the imperial system. Units of length and area are mostly shared between the imperial and US systems, albeit being partially and temporarily defined differently. Capacity measures differ the most due to the introduction of the imperial gallon and the unification of wet and dry measures. The avoirdupois system applies only to weights; it has a long designation and a short designation for the hundredweight and ton.

Another distinction to be noted is that between these systems and older British/English units/systems or newer additions. The term imperial should not be applied to English units that were outlawed in the Weights and Measures Act 1824 or earlier, or which had fallen out of use by that time, nor to post-imperial inventions such as the slug or poundal.

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