- Planck's constant, equal to approximately 6.626 068 96 x
10-34 joule second, a
fundamental constant of physics also used as a unit of "action" or
of angular momentum in particle physics. The unit was defined by
the German physicist Max Planck (1858-1947), who showed in 1900
that at atomic and subatomic scales energy occurs in discrete
packets called quanta. Each quantum has energy h·f,
where f is the frequency of the radiation in hertz (see
- a large traditional unit of land area in Mexico and the
southwestern U.S. The word also refers to a large estate, ranch,
or plantation. As a unit, it equals 5 square leguas
or 125 million square varas. Using
the Texas definition of the vara, this would be about 8960
hectares or 22 140 acres
(34.59 square miles). Using the shorter Mexican vara, it would be
about 8778 hectares or 21 690 acres.
- hair's breadth
- a common informal unit of distance. Human hairs vary
considerably in width, depending on age, color, genetics, and
other factors. An average hair is approximately 70 to 100
micrometers (µm) in diameter, so, as a rough standard, a
hair's breadth is 100 µm or 0.1 millimeter (mm).
- halakim (hl)
- plural of helek (see below). The word is also
transliterated as chalakim or
- a German word for one half; often used as a unit of volume for
beer and other liquids equal to 1/2 maß
(generally 1/2 liter).
- half 
- a unit of proportion equal to 1/2. The English word "half,"
like the German prefix "halb-," is often placed before the name of
a unit to create a combination which functions as a new unit equal
to half the old one. Half dozen, half hour, and
half gallon are typical and common examples.
- half 
- an informal name for 1/2 of many units. For example, in
Britain a "half" often means a 1/2 pint glass of beer, cider,
lemonade, or whatever.
- half life
- a unit of relative time measuring the rate at which a
radioactive substance decays, or (more generally) the rate of
decrease for any process that decreases exponentially. In the case
of radioactivity, the half life is the time required for the
activity to be reduced by half. After a second half life, the
activity is again reduced by half, so it is then 1/4 the original
activity. To reduce the activity to 0.1% of the original amount
requires about 9.966 half lives.
- half step
- a unit used in music to describe the ratio in frequency
between notes. Equal to 1/12 octave, the half step measures the
difference between adjacent notes in the standard 12-tone scale,
as on a piano keyboard. Two notes differ in frequency by a half
step if the higher one has frequency equal to 21/12 =
1.0595 times the frequency of the lower one.
- a traditional unit of distance, now used mostly to measure the
height of horses. One hand equals 4 inches,
1/3 foot, or 10.16 centimeters.
- a traditional unit of volume for beer, used in pubs in the
Northern Territory of Australia. A handle of beer is 285
milliliters (10 fluid
ounces). Glasses of this size are called middies
or pots in most Australian states,
schooners in South
- a traditional measure of length for yarn. The length of yarn
in a hank varies with the market and the material; for example, a
hank of cotton yarn traditionally included 840 yards (768 meters)
of yarn, while a hank of wool yarn was 560 yards (512 meters). For
both cotton and wool, these traditional hanks are equal to 7
leas or to 12 cuts.
In the U.S., however, a hank of woolen yarn is generally 1600
yards (1463 meters). In retail trade, a hank is often equal to 6
or 7 skeins of varying size.
- a measure of the hardness of a metal or mineral. Hardness is a
property easy to appreciate but difficult to quantify and measure.
The Mohs hardness scale is used in
geology to give a rough estimate of hardness by testing which
minerals are able to scratch the sample. In metallurgy, samples
are tested for hardness by machines which indent the surface under
a controlled pressure; the resulting measurement is often computed
as the force applied divided by the surface area of the
indentation. The Brinell,
and Knoop tests are among the
techniques used. Plastics, rubber, and similar materials are
tested with instruments called durometers and the resulting
readings are often designated duro.
- hartley (Hart)
- a unit of information content used in information and
communications theory. The hartley is similar to the shannon.
If the probability of receiving a particular message is p,
then the information content of the message is -log10
p hartleys. For example, if a message is a string of 5
letters or numerals, with all combinations being equally likely,
then a particular message has probability 1/365 and the
information content of a message is 5(log10 36) =
7.7815 hartleys. One hartley equals log2 10 = 3.321 928
shannons or loge 10 = 2.302 585 nats.
- hartree (Ha or Eh)
- a unit of energy used in atomic and molecular physics, equal to
2 rydbergs or about 4.3597 x 10-18 joule
or 27.213 electron volts. The
unit is named for the British physicist and mathematician Douglas
R. Hartree (1897-1958).
- hat size
- in the metric world, the size of a hat is simply the
circumference C of the head it's meant to cover, in
centimeters. The traditional U.S. hat size was defined to equal
C/pi, in inches; this would be
the diameter if the head were circular in cross section. Thus the
U.S. hat size equals the metric size divided by
2.54pi, which is almost exactly
8. Traditional British hat sizes are
equal to U.S. sizes minus 1/8. Thus metric size 60 is equivalent
to U.S. size 60/8 = 7 1/2 and British size 7 3/8. A table
- hat trick or hat-trick
- an informal unit of quantity equal to 3. The unit is used in sports to
describe three successes by a player either consecutively or in a single
contest. It originated in cricket to describe the very rare event of a bowler
dismissing three batsmen on consecutive throws. No one seems to know the
reason for sure: according to one popular account, cricket clubs in England
sometimes awarded a hat to a player who performed the feat, but others suspect
this was an effect, rather than a cause, of the expression. Today "hat
trick" is more familiar to North Americans in ice hockey, where it
refers to the less rare event of a player scoring three goals in a single
- head (hd) 
- an informal unit of length, equal to the approximate length of
a horse's head, used in expressing the results of a horse
- head (hd) 
- a notation seen in measurements of water pressure; see
foot of head.
- head (hd) 
- a unit of quantity for livestock, equal to one animal. No -s
is added for the plural: one speaks of "35 head" of cattle.
- heaped bushel
- a traditional unit of volume in the United States, the heaped
bushel is just what its name implies: the volume of a bushel
container filled to overflowing. Officially, the heaped bushel was
supposed to equal 1.278 regular, or "struck" bushels; this is a
volume of 2748.237 cubic inches, 1.5904 cubic feet, or 45.036
liters. In practice, the heaped bushel was frequently interpreted
as 1.25 bushels, which is equal to exactly 5 pecks,
2688.025 cubic inches, 1.5556 cubic feet, or 44.049 liters.
- heat index (HI or HX)
- a measure of the combined effect of heat and humidity on the
human body. U.S. meteorologists compute the index from the
temperature T (in °F) and the relative humidity H (as a
fraction; that is, H = 0.65 if the relative humidity is 65%). The
formula used is
HI = -42.379 + 2.04901523 T + 1014.333127 H - 22.475541 TH -
.00683783 T2 - 548.1717 H2 + 0.122874
T2H + 8.5282 TH2 - 0.0199
- heating degree day (HDD)
- see degree day.
- heat unit
- an alternate name, coined by Americans, for the British
thermal unit (Btu). This is not the same as the Celsius
heat unit (Chu).
- an obsolete metric prefix denoting ten million
(107). It was coined from the Greek hebdomos,
seventh. A group of seven is sometimes called a hebdomad, a
word related to the French hebdomadaire, weekly.
- hect- or hecto- (h-)
- a metric prefix denoting 100, coined from the Greek word
hekaton for one hundred.
- hectare (ha)
- the customary metric unit of land area, equal to 100 ares.
One hectare is a square hectometer, that is, the area of a square
100 meters on each side: exactly 10 000 square meters or
approximately 107 639.1 square feet, 11 959.9 square yards, or
2.471 054 acres.
- hectare meter (ha·m)
- a unit of volume used to measure the capacity of reservoirs,
equal to the volume of water one meter deep covering one hectare.
The unit is used mostly in British Commonwealth countries,
especially India, where it provides a metric unit comparable to
the traditional English acre
foot. Reservoir capacities are often stated in millions of
hectare meters (Mha·m or MHM). One hectare meter equals
exactly 10 000 cubic meters or about 8.1071 acre feet.
- hectobar (hbar)
- a fairly common metric unit of pressure equal to 100 bars,
10 megapascals (MPa), or 1
dekanewton per square millimeter
(daN/mm2). This is approximately 1450.38 pounds per
square inch (lbf/in2 or psi) or 208 855 pounds (104.43
U.S. tons) per square foot.
- hectogram (hg)
- a common metric unit of mass, equal to 100 grams or about
- hectoliter (hL or hl)
- a common metric unit of volume. The hectoliter equals 100
liters, 0.1 cubic meter, 26.417 U.S. liquid gallons,
21.999 British Imperial gallons, or 3.5315 cubic feet.
- hectometer (hm)
- a metric unit of distance equal to 100 meters, 328.084 feet,
or 109.361 yards. This unit isn't used much in everyday life in
metric countries, but it appears in various scientific
- hectopascal (hPa)
- a metric unit of pressure equal to 100 pascals
or 0.1 kilopascal (kPa). The hectopascal, used almost entirely in
measurements of air pressure, is identical to the millibar
(mb). The millibar has been used to measure air pressure for many
years, but it is not an SI unit. Although
meteorologists in various countries use the hectopascal as a kind
of alias for the millibar, the natural SI
unit for air pressure is the kilopascal.
- a traditional measure of length for linen and woolen yarn,
equal to 2 cuts or 1/6 hank (see above). This is equivalent to 80
yards (73.152 meters).
- Hefner candle (HC) or Hefnerkerze
- a former unit for measuring the intensity of light. The unit
is named for F. von Hefner-Altenack (1845-1904), who invented a
laboratory light standard, the Hefner lamp, which burned isopentyl
acetate to provide light of intensity 1 HK. One Hefner candle is
equivalent to approximately 0.902 candela
- helek (hl)
- a traditional Hebrew unit of time equal to 1/1080 hour, 1/18
minute or 10/3 seconds. The plural is halakim. Halakim are
used in formulas establishing the instant of new moon, which marks
the start of the month in the Jewish calendar. In English, the
unit is often called a part of an hour. The Jews
inherited this unit from the Babylonians; it was widely used
throughout the ancient Middle East.
- the shortest named unit of relative time in music, equal to
1/8 quaver, 1/64 whole note or 1/128 breve.
- a Roman unit of liquid volume, equal to 1/2 sextarius or about
265.6 milliliters (0.561 U.S. pint
or 0.467 British Imperial pint).
- a traditional unit of solid angle equal to 1/2 sphere,
or about 20 626.48 square degrees.
- henry (H)
- the SI unit of electric inductance. A
changing magnetic field induces an electric current in a loop of
wire (or in a coil of many loops) located in the field. Although
the induced voltage depends only on the rate at which the magnetic
flux changes, measured in webers
per second, the amount of the current depends also on the physical
properties of the coil. A coil with an inductance of one henry
requires a flux of one weber for each ampere
of induced current. If, on the other hand, it is the current which
changes, then the induced field will generate a potential
difference within the coil: if the inductance is one henry a
current change of one ampere per second generates a potential
difference of one volt. The henry is
a large unit; inductances in practical circuits are measured in
millihenrys (mH) or microhenrys (µH). The unit is named for
the American physicist Joseph Henry (1797-1878), one of several
scientists who discovered independently how magnetic fields can be
used to generate alternating currents. The plural is sometimes
spelled henrys, but in English it is correct to spell it
- a unit of quantity equal to 7.
- hertz (Hz)
- the SI unit of frequency, equal to one
cycle per second. The hertz is used to measure the rates of events
that happen periodically in a fixed and definite cycle; the
becquerel, also equal to one
"event" per second, is used to measure the rates of things which
happen randomly or unpredictably. Multiples of the hertz are
common: the frequencies of radio and television waves are measured
in kilohertz (kHz), megahertz (MHz), or even gigahertz (GHz), and
the frequencies of light waves in terahertz (THz). The unit is
named for the German physicist Heinrich Rudolf Hertz (1857-1894),
who proved in 1887 that energy is transmitted through a vacuum by
- a unit of quantity equal to 6.
- a unit of information equal to 4 bits
or 1/2 byte. A string of 4 bits has
16 possible states (0-15) and is usually represented as a single
base-16, or hexadecimal, digit (in the hexadecimal
system the letters A through F are used to represent the numbers
10 through 15, respectively). A hexit of data is also known as a
nibble or a quadbit.
- a very old English unit of land area, dating from perhaps the
seventh century. The hide was the amount of land that could be
cultivated by a single plowman and thus the amount of land
necessary to support a family. Depending on local conditions, this
could be as little as 60 acres or as
much as 180 acres (24-72 hectares). The
hide was more or less standardized as 120 acres (48.6 hectares)
after the Norman conquest of 1066. The hide continued in use
throughout medieval times, but it is now obsolete. The unit was
also known as the carucate.
- an ancient Hebrew unit of liquid capacity, mentioned several
times in the Bible. The unit varied in size over time, but
typically it was around 3.7 liters, a little smaller than the U.S.
- hogshead (hhd)
- a traditional unit of volume for liquids. Originally the
hogshead varied with the contents, often being equal to 48 gallons
of ale; 54 of beer; 60 of cider; 63 of oil, honey, or wine; or 100
of molasses. In the United States, a hogshead is defined to hold 2
barrels, or 63 gallons;
this was the traditional British wine hogshead. It is equal to
exactly 14 553 cubic inches, or about 8.422 cubic feet (238.48
liters). In the British Imperial system, the hogshead equals 1/2
butt, or 52.5 Imperial gallons
(8.429 cubic feet, or 238.67 liters). Thus the British Imperial
and American hogsheads are almost exactly the same size. No one
seems to know for sure how this unit got its unusual name.
- one of two Hungarian units of land area. The traditional
magyar hold or Hungarian acre is equal to 1200
square öl (fathoms) or about
0.4314 hectare (1.066 acres). The official kataszteri
hold or cadastral hold, used for land taxation, is 1600
square öl or about 0.5752 hectare (1.421 acres); this unit is
equivalent to the Austrian joch.
- a historic unit of area in the United States, equal to 160
acres (64.75 hectares).
Under the Homestead Act passed by Congress in 1862, settlers in
the western states were allowed to take title to a homestead of
160 acres of land by registering a claim, settling on the land,
and cultivating it. A homestead equals 1/4 square mile,
or 1/4 section in U.S. government
- hoppus foot, hoppus board foot
- traditional units of volume in British forestry. In a 1736
manual of practical calculation, the English surveyor Edward
Hoppus advised foresters to estimate the volume of wood in a log
of length L and girth (circumference) G as
L·(G/4)2. Since the actual volume of a cylinder is
resulting figure, called the hoppus volume, is smaller than the
actual volume of the log. In fact not
all the wood in a log can be used, and the hoppus volume was considered a
fairly reasonable estimate of the usable volume of wood in the
log. Volume measurements made using the hoppus formula are stated
in hoppus feet. In effect, this makes the hoppus foot a
unit of volume equal to 4/pi = 1.273
cubic feet or 0.036 054 cubic meter. Similarly, the hoppus board
foot is equal to 1/12 hoppus foot or 1.273 board
feet, which is almost exactly 3 liters (0.00300 cubic meter).
The British forestry industry changed its unit of timber
measurement from hoppus feet to cubic meters in 1971.
- hoppus ton (HT)
- a traditional unit of volume in British forestry. One hoppus
ton is equal to 50 hoppus feet or 1.8027 cubic meters. Shipments
of tropical hardwoods from Southeast Asia, especially shipments of
teak from Myanmar (Burma), are still stated in hoppus tons.
- slang for the horsepower, as in "200-horse engine."
- horsepower (hp)
- a unit of power representing the power exerted by a horse in
pulling. The horsepower was defined by James Watt (1736-1819), the
inventor of the steam engine, who determined after careful
measurements that a horse is typically capable of a power rate of
550 foot-pounds per second. This means that a horse, harnessed to
an appropriate machine, can lift 550 pounds at the rate of 1 foot
per second. Today the SI unit of power is
named for Watt, and one horsepower is equal to approximately
745.6999 watts. (Slightly different
values have been used in certain industries.) Outside the U.S.,
the English word "horsepower" is often used to mean the metric
horsepower, a slightly smaller unit.
- horsepower hour (hp hr)
- a unit of work or energy equal to the work done at the rate of
1 horsepower for 1 hour. The horsepower hour equals 1 980 000 foot
pounds or approximately 2.685 megajoules,
2545 Btu, 641.1 (large) Calories,
or 745.7 watt hours.
- horsepower year (hp yr)
- an obsolete unit of work or energy equal to the work done at the rate
of 1 horsepower for 1 year. Based on the Julian year of 365.25 days, the horsepower
year is approximately 6536.8 kilowatt hours, 23.537 gigajoules,
or 22.309 million Btu.
- Hounsfield unit (HU)
- a unit used in medical imaging (CT or MRI scanning) to
describe the amount of x-ray attenuation of each "voxel" (volume
element) in the three-dimensional image. The voxels are normally
represented as 12-bit binary numbers, and therefore have
212 = 4096 possible values. These values are arranged
on a scale from -1024 HU to +3071 HU, calibrated so that -1024 HU
is the attentuation produced by air and 0 HU is the attenuation
produced by water. Tissue and bone then produce attenuations in
the positive range. The reading in Hounsfield units is also called
the CT number. The unit is named for the British engineer
Godfrey Hounsfield, who demonstrated the first CT scanner in 1972.
For this invention he received the Nobel Prize in medicine in
- hour (h or hr)
- a traditional unit of time, equal to 60 minutes, or 3600
seconds, or 1/24 day . The custom of dividing the daylight into 12
hours goes back at least as far as the Babylonians, who liked to
divide units by 12 because groups of 12 are easily divided into
halves, thirds, or fourths. Originally an hour was 1/12 of the
time between sunrise and sunset, so summer hours were longer than
winter hours. Later, when people wanted to express times at night,
it was natural to divide the night into 12 hours as well, making
24 hours in the day. Only after the invention of mechanical
clocks, around 1300, did hours became equal intervals marked by
clocks. The word comes from an ancient Greek word hora
which originally meant a season, especially a religious season,
and hence a "defined" period of time. In the Christian church
hora came to mean one of the services held at seven
specific times during the day, thus establishing the word as
marking subdivisions of the day.
- hour (h or hr) 
- a unit of angular measure used in astronomy, equal to 1/24
circle or 15°. Objects can be located in the sky in a coordinate system
in which the equatorial plane is the same as that of the Earth. In this system,
the latitude coordinate is called declination and is measured in degrees from
the Equator to the poles, just as latitude is measured on the surface of the
Earth. The longitude coordinate, called right ascension, is measured in hours
from the longitude, traditionally known as the First Point of Aries, at
which the Sun appears to cross the Equator on its northward journey in the
- hour (h or hr) 
- a unit of sidereal time in astronomy; see sidereal
- in astrology, each sign of the Zodiac is called a house; thus
the house can be considered a unit of angle measure equal to 1/12
circle or 30°.
- a traditional Chinese unit of liquid volume. The hu contains
about 51.77 liters, 13.676 U.S. gallons,
or 11.389 British Imperial gallons.
- a unit of distance sometimes used in astronomy. The hubble is
a gigantic unit, equal to 109 light years. This is
9.4605 x 1021 kilometers (9.4605 yottameters, if you
please), 5.8785 sextillion miles (U.S.), 63.240 x 1012
astronomical units, or 306.595
megaparsecs. In practice, most
astronomers use the megaparsec for measuring such stupendous
distances. The unit honors the American astronomer Edwin Hubble
(1889-1953), who discovered the expansion of the Universe later
explained by the Big Bang theory.
- a numerical measure of color; see color
- a unit of length in Thailand, equal to 1/8 inch or
3.175 millimeters. Pronounced "hoon," the unit seems to be used almost entirely
for measuring the size of dice.
- hundred 
- a unit of quantity. In commercial use in old England the term
"hundred", or cent (C), did not always mean an even 100;
sometimes it meant 120 (the "great hundred") or some other number,
depending on the item. For fish, the exact number in a hundred
varied with the species.
- hundred 
- an old English unit of area equal to 100 hides (see above).
This is roughly 12 000 acres, 5000
hectares, or 18.75 square miles. The hundred is approximately the
area of a village with its associated fields, so the name
"hundred" came to mean a minor division of a shire or county. This
use carried over to the American colonies, where, for example,
many of the early settlements in Virginia were called
hundreds. In colonial South Australia, the hundred was a subdivision of a
county with an area of about 100 square miles or 260 square kilometers.
- hundredweight (Cwt or
- a traditional unit of weight equal to 1/20 ton.
The hundredweight is the English version of a commercial unit used
throughout Europe and known in other countries as the quintal
or the zentner. In general, this
unit is larger than 100 pounds avoirdupois, so to fit the European
market the hundredweight was defined in England as 112 pounds
avoirdupois (about 50.8023 kilograms) rather than 100 pounds. This
definition apparently dates from about the middle of the 1300's.
The British hundredweight was divided into 4 quarters
 of 28 pounds, 8 stone
of 14 pounds, or 16 cloves of 7
pounds each. In the United States, where the currency was
decimalized and there wasn't so much need to align the unit with
the quintal and zentner, the hundredweight came to equal exactly
100 pounds (about 45.3592 kilograms). The U.S. hundredweight seems
to have been invented by merchants around 1840. To distinguish the
two hundredweight units, the British version is often called the
long hundredweight and the American is called the short
hundredweight or cental. The C in the symbol is of
course the Roman numeral 100.
- the Hungarian inch unit, equal to 1/12 láb
or about 2.63 centimeters. As is true of the inch unit in many
languages, the word also means "thumb."
- an obsolete MKS unit of mass. One
hyl is the mass that is accelerated at one meter per second per
second by one kilogram of force
(kgf). Since 1 kgf = 9.806 65 newtons,
the hyl is equivalent to 9.806 65 kilograms. The name of the unit
comes from an ancient Greek word for matter. The hyl is known in German engineering as the Technische Mass Einheit (engineering mass unit) or TME; in English it is called the metric slug, or "mug" for short.
Return to the Dictionary Contents
Skip to: A B
C D E
F G H
I J K
L M N
O P Q
R S T
U V W
X Y Z
You are welcome to email
the author (firstname.lastname@example.org) with comments and
All material in this folder is copyright © 2000 by Russ
Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Permission is granted for personal use and for use by individual
teachers in conducting their own classes. All other rights reserved.
You are welcome to make links to this page, but please do not copy
the contents of any page in this folder to another site. The material
at this site will be updated from time to time.
July 11, 2000