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A one-US-gallon gas can showing "U.S. gallon" marking

(for US use), imperial gallons (for Canadian use) and litres

Unit information

Unit of Volume

Symbol gal

Unit conversions (imperial)

1 imp gal in ... ... is equal to ...

SI-compatible units 4.546090 L

US customary units ≈ 1.200950 US gal

US customary units ≈ 277.4194 in3

Unit conversions (US)

1 US gal in ... ... is equal to ...

SI-compatible units ≈ 3.785412 L

Imperial units ≈ 0.8326742 imp gal

Imperial units 231.0000 in3

The gallon (/ˈɡælən/) is a unit of measurement for fluid capacity in both the US customary
units and the British imperial systems of measurement. Three significantly different sizes
are in current use: the imperial gallon defined as 4.54609 litres (4 imperial quarts or 8
imperial pints), which is used in the United Kingdom, Canada, and some Caribbean
nations; the US gallon defined as 231 cubic inches (4 US liquid quarts or 8 US liquid pints)
or about 3.785 L, which is used in the US and some Latin American and Caribbean
countries; and the least-used US dry gallon defined as 1/8 US bushel (4.405 L).

The IEEE standard symbol for the gallon is gal.[1]

 1 Definitions
o 1.1 English system gallons
o 1.2 Imperial gallon
o 1.3 US liquid gallon
o 1.4 US dry gallon
 2 Worldwide usage of gallons
 3 Relationship to other units
 4 History
 5 References
 6 External links

The gallon currently has one definition in the imperial system, and two definitions (liquid
and dry) in the US customary system. Historically, there were many definitions and

English system gallons[edit]

There were more than a few systems of liquid measurements in the pre-1884 United

 Winchester or Corn Gallon was 272 in3 (157 fl oz) (1697 Act 8 & 9 Will III c22)
o Henry VII (Winchester) corn gallon from 1497 onwards was 154.80 fl oz
o Elizabeth I corn gallon from 1601 onwards was 155.70 fl oz
o William III corn gallon from 1697 onwards was 156.90 fl oz
 Old English (Elizabethan) Ale Gallon was 282 in3 (162 fl oz) (1700 Act 11 Will III
 Old English (Queen Anne) Wine Gallon was standardized as 231 in3 (133 fl oz) in
the 1706 Act 5 Anne c27, but it differed before that:
o London 'Guildhall' gallon (before 1688) was 129.19 fl oz
o Jersey gallon (from 1562 onwards) was 139.20 fl oz
o Guernsey gallon (17th century origins till 1917) was 150.14 fl oz
 Irish Gallon was 217 in3 (125 fl oz) (1495 Irish Act 10 Hen VII c22 confirmed by
1736 Act Geo II c9)

Imperial gallon[edit]

A Shell petrol station selling 2* and 4* (leaded petrol) by the gallon in the UK c. 1980

The imperial (UK) gallon, now defined as exactly 4.54609 litres (about 277.42 cubic
inches), is used in some Commonwealth countries and was originally based on the volume
of 10 pounds (approximately 4.54 kg) of water at 62 °F (17 °C). The imperial fluid ounce is
defined as 1/160 of an imperial gallon; there are four quarts in a gallon, two pints in a quart,
and 20 Imperial fluid ounces in an imperial pint.

US liquid gallon[edit]
A fuel station in the United States displaying fuel prices per US gallon

The US gallon is legally defined as 231 cubic inches, which is exactly 3.785411784
litres.[3][4] A US liquid gallon of water weighs about 8.34 pounds or 3.78 kilograms at 62 °F
(17 °C), making it about 16.6% lighter than the imperial gallon. There are four quarts in a
gallon, two pints in a quart and 16 US fluid ounces in a US pint, which makes the US fluid
ounce equal to 1/128 of a US gallon. In order to overcome the effects of expansion and
contraction with temperature when using a gallon to specify a quantity of material for
purposes of trade, it is common to define the temperature at which the material will occupy
the specified volume. For example, the volume of petroleum products[5] and alcoholic
beverages[6] are both referenced to 60 °F (15.6 °C) in government regulations.

US dry gallon[edit]

Main article: Dry gallon

This dry measure is one-eighth of a US Winchester bushel of 2150.42 cubic inches; it is

therefore equal to exactly 268.8025 cubic inches or about 4.405 L. The US dry gallon is not
used in commerce, and is not listed in the relevant statute, which jumps from the dry quart
to the peck.[7]

Worldwide usage of gallons[edit]

Typical units of gasoline in each country.

Litre US gallon Imperial gallon No data
Gallons used in fuel economy expression in Canada and the United Kingdom are Imperial

Despite its status as a U.S. territory, and unlike American Samoa,[10] the Northern Mariana
Islands,[11] Guam,[12] and the U.S. Virgin Islands,[13] Puerto Rico ceased selling gasoline by
the US gallon in 1980.[14]

The gallon was removed from the list of legally defined primary units of measure
catalogued in the EU directive 80/181/EEC for trading and official purposes, with effect
from 31 December 1994. Under the directive the gallon could still be used – but only as a
supplementary or secondary unit.[15] One of the effects of this directive was that the United
Kingdom amended its own legislation to replace the gallon with the litre as a primary unit
of measure in trade and in the conduct of public business, effective from 30 September

Ireland also passed legislation in response to the EU directive, with the effective date being
31 December 1993.[19] Though the gallon has ceased to be the legally defined primary unit,
it can still be legally used in both the UK and Ireland as a supplementary unit.

The United Arab Emirates started selling gasoline by the litre in 2010,[20] along with
Guyana,[21] and Panama in 2013.[22] The two former had used the Imperial gallon and the
latter the US gallon until they switched.[23] Myanmar (Burma) switched from Imperial
gallon to litre sales before 2014.[24]

The Imperial gallon continues to be used as a unit of measure in Anguilla,[25] Antigua and
Barbuda,[26] the Bahamas,[27] the British Virgin Islands,[28] the Cayman Islands,[29]
Dominica,[30] Grenada,[31] Montserrat,[32] [33] St. Kitts & Nevis,[34] St. Lucia,[35] and St. Vincent
& the Grenadines.[36]

Other than the United States, the US gallon is used in Liberia, Belize, Colombia, The
Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and
Peru, but only for the sale of gasoline. All other products are sold in litres and its multiples
and submultiples.[23]

Antigua and Barbuda planned to switch over to using litres by 2015,[37] but as of 2018 the
switch-over had not been effected.

In the Turks & Caicos Islands, both the U.S. gallon and Imperial gallon are used, due to an
increase in tax duties disguised by levying the same duty on the 3.79 L U.S. gallon as was
previously levied on the 4.55 L Imperial gallon.[38]

Relationship to other units[edit]

Both the US liquid and imperial gallon are divided into four quarts (quarter gallons), which
in turn are divided into two pints. These pints are divided into two cups (though the
imperial cup is rarely used now), which in turn are divided into two gills (gills are also
rarely used). Thus a gallon is equal to four quarts, eight pints, sixteen cups or thirty-two
gills. The imperial gill is further divided into five fluid ounces, whereas the US gill is
divided into four fluid ounces. Thus an imperial fluid ounce is 1/20 of an imperial pint or
1/160 of an imperial gallon, while a US fluid ounce is 1/16 of a US pint or 1/128 of a US

The imperial gallon, quart, pint, cup and gill are approximately 20% larger than their US
counterparts and are therefore not interchangeable. The imperial fluid ounce, on the other
hand, is only 4% smaller than the US fluid ounce and therefore they are often used

In the US, liquor is often sold in "fifths", which are approximately one-fifth of a US

The term derives most immediately from galun, galon in Old Northern French, but the
usage was common in several languages, for example jale in Old French and gęllet (bowl)
in Old English. This suggests a common origin in Romance Latin, but the ultimate source
of the word is unknown.[40] The gallon originated as the base of systems for measuring wine,
and beer in England. The sizes of gallon used in these two systems were different from
each other: the first was based on the wine gallon (equal in size to the US gallon), and the
second on either the ale gallon or the larger imperial gallon.

By the end of the 18th century, three definitions of the gallon were in common use:[citation needed]

 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[41] (≈ 3.79 L),
 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 18 1/2 inches in diameter and 8 inches in depth. That made the dry gallon (9 1/4)2 × π
cubic inches ≈ 268.80252 in3. 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 exactly 268.8025 in3
(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 has been the standard US 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 6
inches deep and 7 inches in diameter, i.e. 6 in × (3 1/2 in)2 × π ≈ 230.907 06 cubic inches. It
had been redefined during the reign of Queen Anne, in 1706, as 231 cubic inches exactly,
which is the result of the earlier definition with π approximated to 22/7. 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 US definition today.

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 g/mL weighed in air of density
0.001217 g/mL against weights of density 8.136 g/mL (the original "brass" was refined as
the density of brass alloys vary depending on metallurgical composition). This works out at
approximately 4.5460903 L (277.41945 in3). The metric definition of exactly 4.54609 cubic
decimetres (also 4.54609 L after the litre was redefined in 1964, ≈ 277.419433 in3) was
adopted shortly afterwards in Canada, but from 1976 the conventional value of 4.546092 L
was used in the United Kingdom until the Canadian convention was adopted in 1985.

Historically, gallons of various sizes were used in many parts of Western Europe. In these
localities, it has been replaced as the unit of capacity by the litre.

Comparison of historic gallons

Approx. Cylindrical
weight approximation
Definition (pounds
per Relative
cubic Diameter Height
(cu in) (L or dm3) gallon error
foot) (in) (in)
@ (%)
62 °F)

216 (Roman Roman

≈ 3.5396 8 7.8 5 11 0.01
unciae) congius

preserved at
the Guildhall,
224 ≈ 3.6707 London (old 7.71 8.09 9 3.5 0.6
UK wine

231 3.785411784 statute of 5th 7.48 8.33 7 6 0.04

of Queen
Anne (UK
wine gallon,
standard US

264.8 ≈ 4.3393 Rumford 6.53 9.57 7.5 6 0.1
quart (1228)

(Henry VII,
265.5 ≈ 4.3508 6.51 9.59 13 2 0.01
1497, with

266.25 ≈ 4.3631 Rumford

statute 13 +
14 by
268.8025 4.40488377086 William III 6.43 9.71 18.5 1 0.00001
(corn gallon,
old US dry

(1601, E.)
271 ≈ 4.4409 6.38 9.79 4.5 17 0.23
(old corn

corn gallon
272 ≈ 4.4573

statute 12 of
Anne (coal
277.18 ≈ 4.5422 gallon) = 6.23 10
33/32 corn
277.274 4.543460 (1824) as 6.23 10
≈277.419433 4.54609 6.23 10 5⅔ 11 0.000 2
gallon, 1985
UK gallon)
gallon (1895)
≈277.419555 4.546092 determined in 6.23 10
1895, as
defined in
(Henry VII,
278 ≈ 4.5556 6.21 10.04
with copper
278.4 ≈ 4.5622 (1601 and 6.21 10.06
1602 pints)
280 ≈ 4.5884 6.17 10.1
(1601 quart)
282 ≈ 4.6212 (beer and ale 6.13 10.2

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