A unit of length in the French-speaking world, primarily used for textiles. It belongs to the ell family of units, playing a role similar to that of the ell in England and other countries.
In France, at least as early as the 13ᵗʰ century – 19ᵗʰ century, a unit of length used for cloth.
From the 16ᵗʰ through the 18ᵗʰ centuries it was generally described as 3 pied, 7 pouce, 8 lignes, but according to the Abbé Hauy¹, a determination by the Academy in 1742 found it to be 3 pied, 7 pouce, 10⁵⁄₆ lignes, or about 1188.45 millimeters.
There were many local and regional variants, some as small as 554 mm (at Landau, Bas-Rhin) and others as large as 1949 mm (at Dinan, Côtes-du-Nord).
With the establishment of the metric system the aune was abolished, but by the decree of 12 February 1812 establishing the Système Usuelle, the aune usuelle was given the value 120 centimeters (about 47.24 inches).
1. René Just Abbé Hauy.
Instruction sur les mesures déduites de la grandeur de la terre, uniformes pour tout la république, et sur les calculs relatifs à leur division décimale.
Aulne: f. An Ell; the measure so called; (The most common
one in France is three foot, seven ynches, and eight
lines in length.)
Aulne de Bourdeaux. is foure foot, and (very neere) a halfe, long.
Aulne de Dijon. is but two foot, and a halfe.
Aulne des marchans de draps de foye; is half an ynch shorter then the common, or ordinarie, Ell.
Aulne de Paris. is three foot, & two thirds of an ynch, and about the fiftieth part of a foot, long; (this is the just length of it at this day; heretofore, as appeares by some Customes, it hath bin 3 foot, 8 ynches, and 4 lines long.)
Aulne de Provins; as Aulne de Dijon; two foot, and a halfe.
L'Aulne du Roy. is (as th' ordinarie one) three foot, seven ynches,and eight lines.
A Dictionary of the French and English Tongues.
London: Printed by Adam Islip, 1611.
Under aulne, Cotgrave lists the meanings unit of length, and alder tree. Under the headword “aune”, he gives only “alder tree”. Perhaps an indication of the status of the transition to “aune” circa 1600.
In Belgium, the aune de Brabant was 695.642 millimeters (Doursther, 1840), but generally taken in commerce as 700 mm.
The law of 1820 adopting the metric system defined the aune = 1 meter. However, according to Kennelly¹, in 19ᵗʰ century practice the aune became ²⁄₃ meter.
1. Arthur E. Kennelly,
Vestiges of Pre-metric Weights and Measures Persisting in Metric-System Europe 1926-1927.
New York: Macmillan, 1928.
In Haiti, 20ᵗʰ century (UN 1966), a unit of length, approximately 1.40 meters (approximately 1.53 yards).
In the Seychelles and Mauritius, 20ᵗʰ century (UN 1966), a unit of length, about 1.191 meters (about 1.303 yards).
On the island of Jersey, a unit of length, 4 feet.
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Last revised: 27 July 2001.