When you’re buying land, you may ask the question, “how big is an acre?” Fortunately for you, our guide answers this question and has some fun facts, too. Read on to learn all you need to know.
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- How Big Is an Acre?
- Origins of the Acre
- Acre Size Comparisons
- Fun Facts About Acres
- How to Calculate Acreage
How Big Is an Acre?
If you find yourself wondering, “How big is an acre?” you’ll easily find the answer with a quick search – one acre is 43,560 square feet. It’s equal to 4,480 square yards.
An acre is 1/640th of a square mile. But unless you’re a surveyor or human calculator, these metrics might not mean much to you. It’s hard to visualize a vast measurement like an acre.
Don’t worry! We’ve got some recognizable examples and comparisons to help (hint: pizza and Post-It Notes are involved). First, let’s talk about what an acre symbolizes and why it’s one of our land area measurement metrics.
The Origin of the Acre
One of the most exciting things about acres (yes, you read that correctly) is the origin story. How did we arrive at such an oddly specific measurement of 43,560 square feet in an acre?
And why is it called an acre? The modern word acre comes from the Middle English word aker, derived from the Old English æcer, meaning open field.
In those days, the acre was a measurement that was equivalent to the amount of land a man could plow in a single day with the help of a yoke of oxen pulling a wooden plow.
As it turns out, a man and a yoke of oxen can plow about 43,560 square feet together in a day with 12 hours of sunlight. Helpful, right?
How They Determined This Number
They calculated the original acre by using what are now rarely used measurements, including chains and furlongs. A chain is equal to 66 feet (the length of a surveyor’s chain).
And a furlong is equal to 660 feet (the length of the land a team of oxen could plow before needing rest). Determining the acreage was a way for farmers to figure out how the entire area of land they could plow in one day.
They did this by multiplying the chain (66 feet) by the furlong (660 feet). This gives us the acre measurement we know today of 43,560 square feet.
Acre Size Comparisons
Even if you’re just not in the plowing mood today (or have a conspicuous lack of oxen), the acre measurement is likely still a term you use pretty often.
Whether you’re searching for land to buy, looking at houses with plenty of property, working as a real estate agent or surveyor, or studying Old English etymology, knowing how big an acre is will serve you well.
Here are some creative ways to visualize an acre and get a sense of how much land it really is.
In Football Fields
An acre is smaller than the size of an American football field. One football field is 57,600 square feet, but an acre is only 43,560 square feet. An acre is about 75% of a football field.
You could fit 16 tennis courts into one acre of land. For reference, tennis courts are 78 feet long by 27 feet wide (singles) or 36 feet wide (doubles).
The United States has more than 2.4 billion acres in total. Alaska alone makes up more than 17% of the acreage in the United States, which is more acreage than the three next-largest states (Texas, California, and Montana) combined.
About 242 average-sized sedans can fit into a one-acre lot. For more comfortable parking with lanes and enough room to open the doors and back out, you can fit about 150 cars into a one-acre lot.
The Roman Colosseum covers about 6 acres and is 620 feet long, 512 feet wide, and 158 feet tall. Fifty thousand people could be seated inside.
Let’s say you’re a frenzied developer who really likes the idea of neighbors being close. In theory, you could put 18 homes (each one about 2,400 square feet) on just one acre.
Have a deep love for the starchiest of carbs? Don’t we all? You could line up about 1,584 potatoes across an acre. That’s a lot of french fries.
Acres in the Smallest State
The smallest state in the U.S., Rhode Island, has 988,832 acres by comparison. That’s just 0.04% of the total acreage in the United States.
A square acre would require almost 70-yard sticks to reach from one end to the other.
Post It Notes
If you somehow ended up with 696,960 Post-It Notes, you’re in luck – you’d be able to cover one acre of land with them completely.
Acres in the Largest State
Alaska is by far the biggest state in the US, comprised of a whopping 424.5 million acres. Now that’s a lot! Even crazier? Most of the state is unpopulated (probably because it’s so darn cold).
Other Acre Facts You Should Know
Acres are different in other parts of the world. Ireland and Scotland’s acres are bigger. Irish acres are equal to 1.6 acres as we measure them in the United States, and Scottish acres are equivalent to 1.27 acres.
If you have an acre of property and want to walk all the way across it, you’ll do it in about 36 seconds if you’re walking at 4 miles per hour. That’s perfect for telling kids to get off your lawn!
Fun Acre Facts:
- If you’re dealing with a square acre, it will be about 209 feet long and wide.
- The Citystars Sharm El Sheikh swimming pool in Egypt covers more than 23 acres.
- The next largest swimming pool, at San Alfonso del Mar in Chile, covers more than 19 acres.
- Oakland Raiders player Jim Plunkett threw a 99-yard (297 feet) touchdown pass in 1983, which set an NFL record. No wonder – he threw the ball more than an acre!
- If you were to lay out every pizza Americans as a nation eat daily, it would cover as much space as the Mall of America!
Acres don’t measure land length. They measure land area, so an acre can have just about any shape. If you’ve ever looked at property lines, you’ve seen how oddly shaped a parcel of land can be!
How to Calculate Acreage
If you want to calculate acreage on your own, follow these steps. You’ll need an accurate tool to measure long distances like a laser distance meter or a surveyor wheel.
1. Measure Property Length
Wherever the border of your property is, find the longest side, and measure it with a precise measuring tool. This could be a laser distance meter or surveyor wheel to do this.
You can measure in yards or feet. Record the results. If your property borders are square, this is the only measurement you’ll need to make.
2. Measure Property Width
The shorter side of your property line (if it’s not square) will be your next measurement. This is considered the breadth of your property. Use the laser distance meter or surveyor wheel to measure the width of your property accurately and record the results.
3. Calculate the Square Footage
If you recorded your length and breadth in yards, multiply those measurements by three to arrive at the number of feet. Now, multiply the length of your property by the breadth, or width. This gives you the square footage of your parcel of land.
4. Convert Square Footage into Acres
The square footage of the property is the total area. Because acres are a way to simplify land area (the number of acres is much smaller than dealing with square footage), you’ll need to convert your square footage into acres.
You’ll do this by using the conversion table below. If you’ve used feet and square feet as your measurement, you can take the total square footage and divide it by 43,560 (the number of square feet in an acre).
The result you get is the number of acres on your property. Sound tough? It’s really not. In fact, real estate agents do this many times every single day.
How Big Is an Acre in Other Measurements?
This is how many square feet, square meters, square yards, hectares, and square miles of an acre are equivalent.
There are several acreage calculators online you can use to avoid the calculations. However, you’ll still need accurate measurements of your property to plug into these calculators.
So, How Big Is an Acre?
You now know more about acres, their size, how to calculate them, and creative size comparisons than you originally set out to learn.
Next time someone asks you, “How big is an acre?”, you’ll be able to confidently answer that an acre is 43,560 square feet and equivalent to about 3/4 of a football field.
If that doesn’t seem to spark their interest, you could always share the tales of the acre’s origins as a measurement (don’t forget to mention the furlong).
And if all else fails, there’s no shame in eating a few slices of pizza and daydreaming about swimming in the massive 23-acre pool in Egypt.