# Nautical Mile vs. Mile — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Published on November 26, 2023
A nautical mile relates to Earth's circumference, equaling one minute of latitude; a mile, or statute mile, is 5,280 feet.

## Key Differences

A nautical mile and a mile serve different purposes in measurement. The nautical mile is fundamentally tied to the Earth's circumference, while the term mile typically refers to the statute mile used on land.
Historically, the nautical mile was defined as one minute of latitude. This makes it especially suitable for navigation and map reading. In contrast, the mile, often used in the US and UK, has been defined differently over time, with the most common definition today being 5,280 feet.
The nautical mile, used primarily for aviation and maritime purposes, is longer than the statute mile. While the nautical mile measures approximately 6,076 feet, the mile measures exactly 5,280 feet.
In everyday land-based activities and road transportation, the mile is the standard unit of distance. The nautical mile, on the other hand, is crucial for sailors, pilots, and those involved in seafaring and air navigation.
Speeds in marine and aerial navigation are typically given in knots, which means nautical miles per hour. For terrestrial distances and speeds, miles and miles per hour are more common.

## Comparison Chart

### Basis of Origin

One minute of latitude
Varied historical definitions

### Current Length

Approximately 6,076 feet
Exactly 5,280 feet

### Primary Usage

Land-based measurement

### Associated Speed Unit

Knots (nautical miles per hour)
Miles per hour

### Relation to Earth

Tied to Earth's circumference
Fixed land measure

## Compare with Definitions

#### Nautical Mile

Speeds in nautical contexts are expressed in knots.
The wind pushed the boat at 15 knots, meaning 15 nautical miles per hour.

#### Mile

A mile is a unit of length used primarily in the US and UK.
I jogged five miles this morning.

#### Nautical Mile

This unit is essential for those involved in seafaring and air navigation.
Navigators rely heavily on the nautical mile for accurate plotting.

#### Mile

Mile is used in everyday land-based activities.
The grocery store is just a mile away from my home.

#### Nautical Mile

A nautical mile pertains to maritime and aerial navigation.
The ship traveled 100 nautical miles today.

#### Mile

The mile has varied historical definitions but is standardized today.
Ancient Roman miles differed from today's standard mile.

#### Nautical Mile

It is based on Earth's circumference, representing one minute of latitude.
Pilots find the nautical mile useful due to its tie to the Earth's shape.

#### Mile

It's the standard unit for terrestrial distances and speeds.
The car's speedometer showed 60 miles per hour.

#### Nautical Mile

The nautical mile measures approximately 6,076 feet.
The submarine descended 2 nautical miles beneath the sea.

#### Mile

Abbr. mi. or mi A unit of length equal to 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards (1,609 meters), used in the United States and other English-speaking countries. Also called land mile, statute mile. See Table at measurement.

A nautical mile.

An air mile.

#### Mile

(Sports) A race that is one mile long.

#### Mile

A relatively great distance
Had to walk for miles in the airport.

#### Mile

The international mile: a unit of length precisely equal to 1.609344 kilometers established by treaty among Anglophone nations in 1959, divided into 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards.
Turn left in 1.2 miles.

#### Mile

Any of several customary units of length derived from the 1593 English statute mile of 8 furlongs, equivalent to 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards of various precise values.

#### Mile

Any of many customary units of length derived from the Roman mile (mille passus) of 8 stades or 5,000 Roman feet.

#### Mile

The Scandinavian mile: a unit of length precisely equal to 10 kilometers defined in 1889.

#### Mile

Any of many customary units of length from other measurement systems of roughly similar values, as the Chinese (里) or Arabic mile (al-mīl).

#### Mile

(travel) An airline mile in a frequent flyer program.

#### Mile

(informal) Any similarly large distance.
The shot missed by a mile.

#### Mile

(slang) A race of 1 mile's length; a race of around 1 mile's length (usually 1500 or 1600 meters)
The runners competed in the mile.

#### Mile

(slang) One mile per hour, as a measure of speed.
Five miles over the speed limit

#### Mile

A certain measure of distance, being equivalent in England and the United States to 320 poles or rods, or 5,280 feet.

#### Mile

A unit of length equal to 1760 yards

#### Mile

A unit of length used in navigation; equivalent to the distance spanned by one minute of arc in latitude; 1,852 meters

#### Mile

A large distance;
He missed by a mile

#### Mile

A former British unit of length once used in navigation; equivalent to 1828.8 meters (6000 feet)

#### Mile

A British unit of length equivalent to 1,853.18 meters (6,082 feet)

#### Mile

An ancient Roman unit of length equivalent to 1620 yards

#### Mile

A Swedish unit of length equivalent to 10 km

#### Mile

A footrace extending one mile;
He holds the record in the mile

#### Mile

Commonly, a mile measures exactly 5,280 feet.
The canyon was over a mile wide.

## Common Curiosities

#### How is a mile commonly defined today?

Today, a mile is defined as exactly 5,280 feet.

#### Where is the nautical mile primarily used?

The nautical mile is primarily used in maritime and aviation navigation.

#### What defines a nautical mile?

A nautical mile represents one minute of latitude, related to Earth's circumference.

#### Which is longer, a nautical mile or a statute mile?

A nautical mile is longer, measuring approximately 6,076 feet.

#### What is the primary usage of a mile?

The mile is mainly used for land-based measurements and activities.

#### Is the nautical mile used in global navigation?

Yes, the nautical mile is used worldwide for maritime and aerial navigation.

#### How is speed on roads commonly measured?

On roads, speed is commonly measured in miles per hour.

#### Why is the nautical mile preferred for navigation?

Due to its relation to the Earth's circumference and minutes of latitude, it's especially suitable for navigation.

#### What does the term "knots" refer to?

"Knots" refers to nautical miles per hour, a speed measurement in maritime and aerial contexts.

#### How do nautical miles aid pilots?

Nautical miles help pilots because of their relationship to Earth's shape, making them useful for global navigation.

#### Are miles and nautical miles interchangeable?

No, they serve different purposes and have different lengths, so they aren't interchangeable.

#### What speed unit is associated with the nautical mile?

The speed unit associated with the nautical mile is knots (nautical miles per hour).

#### How have the definitions of a mile changed over time?

Historically, the mile had varied definitions across cultures, but today it's standardized to 5,280 feet.

#### How many feet are there in a nautical mile?

A nautical mile is approximately 6,076 feet.

#### Which countries primarily use the mile for land distances?

The mile is primarily used in the US and UK for land distances.

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