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A gallon is a measure of volume. It is in current use in the United States and still has limited use in many other English-speaking countries.

Historically the gallon has had many different definitions, but there are three definitions in current use. These are the U.S. liquid gallon, the U.S. dry gallon and the Imperial (UK) gallon.


  • U.S. liquid gallon is legally defined as 231 cubic inches, and is equal to (exactly) 3.785411784 litres (1 L = 10-3 m3) or about 0.13368 cubic feet. This is the most common definition of a gallon in the United States. The U.S. fluid ounce is defined as 1/128 of a U.S. gallon.
  • U.S. dry gallon is one-eighth of a U.S. Winchester bushel of 2150.42 cubic inches, thus 268.8025 cubic inches (exactly) or 4.40488377086 litres (exactly). The U.S. dry gallon is less commonly used.
  • Imperial (UK) gallon is legally defined as 4.54609 litres (≈ 277.42 cu in), which is about 1.2 U.S. liquid gallons. This definition is used in Commonwealth countries and Ireland, and is based on the volume of 10 pounds of water at 62 °F. (A U.S. liquid gallon of water weighs about 8.33 pounds at the same temperature.)

Worldwide usage of gallons

The US liquid gallon continues to be used as a unit of measure for fuel[1] in Belize,[2][3] Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Myanmar (Burma),[4][5][6] Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Sierra Leone, and the United States.

The Imperial gallon is no longer legal in the United Kingdom for trade or public administration purposes, but it is used colloquially (and in advertising) for the fuel consumption (inverted) figures, in miles per gallon (elsewhere in Europe, the effective fuel consumption is most often advertized in litres per 100 km). However it continues to be used as a unit of measure for fuel[1] in Antigua and Barbuda,[7][8][9] Guyana, and the United Arab Emirates.

The word has also been used as translation for several foreign units of the same magnitude.[citation needed]


The gallons in current use are subdivided into eight pints or four quarts. Pints are further subdivided into fluid ounces and liquid gallons are also subdivided into 32 gills, i.e. a quarter of a pint. The sub-units of pint and fluid ounce, despite having the same name in both Imperial and U.S. units, differ in volume and are therefore not interchangeable.

The Imperial fluid ounce is defined as 1/160 of an Imperial gallon.


At one time, the volume of a gallon depended on what was being measured, and where it was being measured. But, by the end of the 18th century, three definitions were in common use:

  • The corn gallon, or “Winchester gallon”, of about 268.8 cubic inches (≈ 4.405 L),
  • the wine gallon, or “Queen Anne’s gallon”, which was 231 cubic inches (≈ 3.79 L), and
  • the ale gallon of 282 cubic inches (≈ 4.62 L).

The corn or dry gallon was used in the United States until recently for grain and other dry commodities. It is one eighth of the (Winchester) bushel, originally a cylindrical measure of 18½ inches in diameter and 8 inches depth. That made the dry gallon 9¼²·π in³ ≈ 268.80252 cubic inches. The bushel, which like dry quart and pint still sees some use, was later defined to be 2150.42 cubic inches exactly, making its gallon 268.8025 cubic inches exactly (4.40488377086 L). In previous centuries there had been a corn gallon of around 271 to 272 cubic inches.

The wine, fluid, or liquid gallon is the standard U.S. gallon since the early 19th century. The wine gallon, which some sources relate to the volume occupied by eight medieval merchant pounds of wine, was at one time defined as the volume of a cylinder six inches deep and seven inches in diameter, i.e. 6·3½²·π ≈ 230.90706 cubic inches. It had been redefined during the reign of Queen Anne, in 1706, as 231 cubic inches exactly (3 × 7 × 11 in), which is the result of the earlier definition with π approximated to 227. Although the wine gallon had been used for centuries for import duty purposes there was no legal standard of it in the Exchequer and a smaller gallon (224 cu in) was actually in use, so this statute became necessary. It remains the U.S. definition today.

The original ratio between corn and wine gallon is 9¼²:6·3½² = 1369:1176, but 268.8:231 is exactly 64:55 or ca. 13:11. This approximation is still applicable, although the ratio of 1.164115646 slightly changed to 1.163647186 with current definitions (268.8025:231 = 107521:92400 ≈ 1344:1165). In some contexts it is or was necessary to disambiguate between those two U.S. gallons, so “liquid” or “fluid” and “dry” respectively are then added to the name.

In 1824, Britain adopted a close approximation to the ale gallon known as the Imperial gallon and abolished all other gallons in favour of it. Inspired by the kilogram-litre relationship, the Imperial gallon was based on the volume of 10 pounds of distilled water weighed in air with brass weights with the barometer standing at 30 inches of mercury and at a temperature of 62 °F. In 1963, this definition was refined as the space occupied by 10 pounds of distilled water of density 0.998859 grams per millilitre weighed in air of density 0.001217 g/mL against weights of density 8.136 g/mL. This works out at approximately 4.5460903 L (277.4416 cu in). The metric definition of exactly 4.54609 cubic decimetres (also 4.54609 L after the litre was redefined in 1964, ca. 277.419433 cu in) was adopted shortly afterwards in Canada; for several years, the conventional value of 4.546092 L was used in the United Kingdom, until the Canadian convention was adopted in 1985.

Before and into the 19th century there were also several other gallons in use, with varying definitions. These are summarized in the table below. During some eras, the gallon was based on an exact conversion with a linear measure cubed. Other eras, the gallon was based on a rational approximation to the volume of a cylinder that could be used as a standard container, such as a basket, barrel, or jar. Other definitions were based on the density of a commodity, occasionally water, but more often a more marketable good such as wine or oats. Given these options and the variety of cultures that have used the gallon, it is not surprising that the exact value has drifted over the centuries.

Examples of gallons

Volume Definition Inverted volume
(gallons per cubic foot)
density of
water (pounds
per gallon
Cylindrical approximation
(cu in) (L, or dm3) Diameter
216 3.5396 (ca.) Roman congius 8 7.8 5 11 0.01
224 3.6707 (ca.) preserved at the Guildhall, London (old UK wine gallon) 7.71 8.09 9 3.5 0.6
231 3.785411784 statute of 5th of Queen Anne (US wine gallon, standard US gallon) 7.48 8.33 7 6 0.04
264.8 4.3393 (ca.) ancient Rumford quart (1228) 6.53 9.57 7.5 6 0.1
265.5 4.3508 (ca.) Exchequer (Henry VII, 1091, with rim) 6.51 9.59 13 2 0.01
266.25 4.3631 (ca.) ancient Rumford (1228)          
268.8025 4.40488377086 Winchester, statute 13 + 14 by William III (corn gallon, old US dry gallon) 6.43 9.71 18.5 1 0.00001
271 4.4409 (ca.) Exchequer (1601, E.) (old corn gallon) 6.38 9.79 4.5 17 0.23
272 4.4573 (ca.) corn gallon (1688)          
277.18 4.5422 (ca.) statute 12 of Anne (coal gallon) 6.23 10      
277.419433 (ca.) 4.54609 standard Imperial gallon (metric) (1964 Canada gallon, 1985 UK gallon)          
277.419555 (ca.) 4.546092 Imperial gallon (1824) (traditional UK ale gallon) 6.23 10      
278 4.5556 (ca.) Exchequer (Henry VII, with copper rim) 6.21 10.04      
278.4 4.5622 (ca.) Exchequer (1601 and 1602 pints) 6.21 10.06      
280 4.5884 (ca.) Exchequer (1601 quart) 6.17 10.1      
282 4,6212 (ca.) Treasury (beer and ale gallon) 6.13 10.2      


  1. 1.0 1.1 "FuelPrices2005 (see chapter 12.2: Conversion units)" (pdf). German Technical Cooperation. p. 96. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  2. "Belize Ministry of Finance::FAQ". Belize Ministry of Finance. Retrieved 2008-01-15. #Kerosene per US Gallon (per Imperial gallon)#Gasoline (Regular)(per Imperial Gallon)# Gasoline (Premium) (per Imperial Gallon)#Diesel (per Imperial Gallon) line feed character in |quote= at position 87 (help)
  3. "Belize shopping". Retrieved 2008-01-15. Although the Belize $ is pegged at two for every US$, they use Imperial gallons rather than the smaller US gallons (0.83 of an Imperial) when dealing with gasoline. The cheapest grade of gasoline was US$4.69/Imperial gallon
  4. "500 Are Detained in Burmese Capital". Retrieved 2008-01-16. ... the Government cut the ration of subsidized gasoline from six to four imperial gallons a week
  5. Win, Aye Aye (22 Aug 2007). "Fuel Hike Protest Begins in Myanmar". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-01-16. The government, which holds a monopoly on fuel sales and subsidizes them, raised prices of fuel from $1.16 to $2.33 per imperial gallon for diesel and to $1.94 for gasoline. A canister of natural gas containing 17 gallons was raised from 39 cents to $1.94.
  6. "Burma's Activists March against Fuel Price". 20 Aug 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-16. The government, which holds a monopoly on fuel sales and subsidizes them, raised prices of fuel from 1,500 kyats (US $1.16) to 3,000 kyats ($2.33) per imperial gallon for diesel and to 2,500 kyats ($1.94) for gasoline. Text "publisher+HikeThe Irrawaddy News Magazine Online Edition Covering Burma " ignored (help)
  7. "GRENADA VISITOR FORUM - Cost Of Living - Grocery Prices". Retrieved 2008-01-15.
  8. "The Government of Grenada - The Ministry of Agriculture". Retrieved 2008-01-15. he price of gasoline at the pumps was fixed at EC$7.50 per imperial gallon...
  9. "The High Commission Antigua and Barbuda". Retrieved 2008-01-15.

See also

be-x-old:Галён bg:Галон cs:Galon da:Gallon de:Gallone eo:Galjono gl:Galón ko:갤런 hr:Galon it:Gallone he:גלון hu:Gallon nl:Gallon no:Gallon nn:Gallon simple:Gallon sk:Galón sl:Galona fi:Gallona sv:Gallon th:แกลลอน