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Measures of time

The Legal Genealogist is at sea — literally, not just figuratively — with the Federation of Genealogical Societies Alaska cruise. So the focus of posts while internet connections may be — shall we call them fluid? — will be on the arcane language of the law…

It’s amazing, sometimes, just how much the notion of time is reflected in the language of the law.

clockPoking through the law dictionaries, a single day was used as a referent in so many different terms and concepts.

Among them:

ARURA. An old English law term, signifying a day’s work in plowing.1

CARUCATA. A certain quantity of land used as the basis for taxation. As much land as may be tilled by a single plow in a year and a day.2

DAYWERE. In old English law. A term applied to land, and signifying as much arable ground as could be plowed up in one day’s work.3

DIETA. A day’s journey; a day’s work; a day’s expenses.4

FALCATURA, a day’s mowing.5

HERPICATIO. In old English law. A day’s work with a harrow.6

HUEBRAS. In Spanish law. A measure of land equal to as much as a yoke of oxen can plow in one day.7

JORNALE. As much land as could be plowed in one day.8

JOURNEY. The original signification of this word was a day’s travel.9

JUGERUM. An acre. As much as a yoke (jugum) of oxen could plow in one day.10

JUGUM. In the civil law. A yoke; a measure of land; as much land as a yoke of oxen could plow in a day.11

JURNEDUM. In old English law. A journey; a day’s traveling.12

MANNING. A day’s work of a man.13

OPERATIO. One day’s work performed by a tenant for his lord.14

ZYGOCEPHALUM. In the civil law. A measure or quantity of land. … As much land as a yoke of oxen could plow in a day.15


  1. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 93, “arura.”
  2. Ibid., 175, “carucata.”
  3. Ibid., 320, “daywere.”
  4. Ibid., 367, “dieta.”
  5. Ibid., 473, “falcare.”
  6. Ibid., 570, “herpicatio.”
  7. Ibid., 583, “huebras.”
  8. Ibid., 652, “jornale.”
  9. Ibid., “journey.”
  10. Ibid., 660, “jugerum.”
  11. Ibid., “jugum.”
  12. Ibid., 664, “journedum.”
  13. Ibid., 750, “manning.”
  14. Ibid., 851, “operatio.”
  15. Ibid., 1253, “zygocephalum.”
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