Inch

Definition: An inch (symbol: in) is a unit of length in the imperial and US customary systems of measurement. An inch was defined to be equivalent to exactly 25.4 millimeters in 1959. There are 12 inches in a foot and 36 inches in a yard.

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History/origin: The term "inch" was derived from the Latin unit "uncia" which equated to "one-twelfth" of a Roman foot.

There have been a number of different standards for the inch in the past, with the current definition being based on the international yard. One of the earliest definitions of the inch was based on barleycorns, where an inch was equal to the length of three grains of dry, round barley placed end-to-end. Another version of the inch is also believed to have been derived from the width of a human thumb, where the length was obtained from averaging the width of three thumbs: a small, a medium, and a large one.

Current use: The inch is mostly used in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. It is also sometimes used in Japan (as well as other countries) in relation to electronic parts, like the size of display screens.

Foot

Definition: A foot (symbol: ft) is a unit of length in the imperial and US customary systems of measurement. A foot was defined as exactly 0.3048 meters in 1959. One foot contains 12 inches, and one yard is comprised of three feet.

History/origin: Prior to standardization of units of measurement, and the definition of the foot currently in use, the measurement of the foot was used in many different systems including the Greek, Roman, English, Chinese, and French systems, varying in length between each. The various lengths were due to parts of the human body historically being used as a basis for units of length (such as the cubit, hand, span, digit, and many others, sometimes referred to as anthropic units). This resulted in the measurement of a foot varying between 250 mm and 335 mm in the past compared to the current definition of 304.8 mm. While the United States is one of the few, if not only, countries in which the foot is still widely used, many countries used their own version of the foot prior to metrication, as evidenced by a fairly large list of obsolete feet measurements.

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Current use: The foot is primarily used in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom for many everyday applications. In the US, feet and inches are commonly used to measure height, shorter distances, field length (sometimes in the form of yards), etc. Feet are also commonly used to measure altitude (aviation) as well as elevation (such as that of a mountain). The international foot corresponds to human feet with shoe size 13 (UK), 14 (US male), 15.5 (US female), or 46 (EU).