An itinerary measure of distance, varying in different countries, but
usually estimated roughly at about 3 miles; apparently never in
regular use in England, but often occurring in poetical or rhetorical
statements of distance. marine league n. a unit of distance = 3
nautical miles or 3041 fathoms. Although the league appears never to
have been an English measure, leuca occurs somewhat frequently in
Anglo-Latin law-books (Bracton, Fleta, etc.); it is disputed whether
in these works it means one mile or two.
▸a1387 J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden Polychron. (St. John's Cambr.)
(1874) V. 245 Þanne þey come to giders in þe feeldes Cathalmytes,
þat conteyneþ an hondred leges [v.rr. leuges, leghes, 1432–50 lewkes]
in lengþe and seventy in brede.
1398 J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomew de Glanville De Proprietatibus Rerum
(1495) xv. xxii. 497 The walles of Babylone were acountyd for two
lewges and an halfe.
c1400 Mandeville's Trav. (Roxb.) viii. 28 Þis ile es cccl. leeges
1474 Caxton tr. Game & Playe of Chesse (1883) iv. i. 158 After the
maner of lombardye they be callid myles, and in france leukes, and in
englong they be callid mylis also.
1483 Caxton tr. J. de Voragine Golden Legende 223/2 Mount Joye..is
but half a leeke fro seynt James.
c1503 R. Arnold Chron. f. lxvi/1 xvi furlong make a frensh leuge
a1513 R. Fabyan New Cronycles Eng. & Fraunce (1516) I. lxxxv. f.
xxxiii An Hundreth Legis..wherof euery Lege conteyneth .iii.
c1515 Ld. Berners tr. Bk. Duke Huon of Burdeux (1882–7) lxxxvii. 275
A stronge castell with in a .iii. legges of Burdeux.
1528 D. Lindsay Dreme 642–4 The quantytie of the erth Circuleir Is
fyftie thousand liggis..Deuidyng, aye, ane lig in mylis two.
1555 R. Eden tr. Peter Martyr of Angleria Decades of Newe Worlde i.
i. f. 1v Such as are expert sea men, affyrme that euery league
conteyneth foure myles.
1559 W. Cuningham Cosmogr. Glasse 57 The Gretians [measure] by
furlonges: the Spaniardes, and French men by leques.
1594 T. Blundeville Exercises iii. ii. vi. f. 181v The French
league containeth two of our miles, the Spanish league three, and the
common league of Germany foure, and the great league of Germanie
containeth fiue of our miles.
a1616 Shakespeare Tempest (1623) i. ii. 145 They hurried vs
a-boord a Barke, Bore vs some Leagues to Sea.
1774 O. Goldsmith Hist. Earth I. 42 At Touraine, in France..there
is a plain of about nine leagues long, and as many broad.
a1824 Byron Childe Harold iv. in Wks. (1837) 48/1 I never yet saw
the picture..which came a league within my conception.
1828 J. M. Spearman Brit. Gunner 268 A league at sea..contains
3000 geometrical paces, or 3 English miles.
1843 G. Borrow Bible in Spain ii. xii.251 The village of
Finisterra was distant about a league and a half.
1845 R. Ford Hand-bk. Travellers in Spain I. i. 15 The Spanish
league is somewhat less than three miles and a half English.
1855 Tennyson Charge Light Brigade i, in Maud & Other Poems 151
Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward.
1878 R. Browning La Saisiaz 25 Can I..sharpen ear to recognize
Sound o'er league and league of silence?