Meaning of LENGTH in English

length S2 W2 /leŋθ/ BrE AmE noun

[ Word Family: adverb : ↑ lengthwise , lengthways; adjective : lengthening, ↑ lengthy ; verb : ↑ lengthen ; noun : ↑ length ]

[ Language: Old English ; Origin: lengthu , from lang ; ⇨ ↑ long 1 ]

1 . SIZE [uncountable and countable] the measurement of how long something is from one end to the other ⇨ breadth , width :

We measured the length and width of the living room.

a length of 1 metre/2 feet etc

Some fish can grow to a length of four feet.

2 feet/10 metres etc in length

The hotel pool is 15 metres in length.

You’ll need several pieces of string of different lengths.

2 . TIME [uncountable and countable] the amount of time that you spend doing something or that something continues ⇨ duration

length of

Your pension will depend on your length of employment.

What’s the average length of stay in hospital?

(not) for any length of time (=not for very long)

He wasn’t left alone for any length of time.


In everyday English, people usually talk about how long something is in space or time, rather than using the noun length :

▪ We need to know the length of the table. ➔ We need to know how long the table is.

▪ | He was annoyed by the length of time he had to wait. ➔ He was annoyed by how long he had to wait.

3 . BOOKS/FILMS ETC [uncountable and countable] the amount of writing in a book, or the amount of time that a film, play etc continues

length of

We had to cut the length of the book by one third.

of this length

Films of this length (=as long as this) are pretty unusual.

4 . run/stretch/walk etc the (full) length of something to go or move from one end to the other of something:

The wall ran the full length of the garden.

They walked the length of the pier.

5 . shoulder-length/knee-length etc reaching down as far as your shoulders etc:

shoulder-length hair

an ankle-length dress

6 . go to some/great/any lengths (to do something) to try very hard or to do whatever is necessary to achieve something that is important to you:

He went to great lengths to keep their name out of the papers.

Bella would go to any lengths to fulfil her ambition.

7 . at (some/great etc) length

a) if you talk at length about something, you talk about it for a long time

speak/talk etc at length

The young people spoke at length about their experiences.

We’ve already discussed the subject at great length.

b) literary after a long time:

‘I don’t agree,’ she said at length.

8 . the length and breadth of the area/country/land etc in or through every part of a large area:

The police searched the length and breadth of the country.

9 . PIECE [countable] a piece of something long and thin

a length of rope/pipe/wire etc

10 . IN RACES [countable] the measurement of a horse, boat etc from one end to the other – used when saying how far the horse, boat etc is ahead of another:

The horse won by three lengths.

11 . SWIMMING [countable] the distance from one end of a swimming pool to the other

do/swim a length

She does at least 20 lengths a day.

⇨ hold something at arm’s length at ↑ arm 1 (8), ⇨ keep/hold somebody at arm’s length at ↑ arm 1 (9), ⇨ ↑ full-length 1

• • •


■ verbs

▪ measure the length of something

The children measured the length of their shadows at three different times of day.

▪ have a length of 1 metre/2 feet etc

These leaves have a length of about 7 cm.

▪ grow to/reach a length of 2 metres/8 feet etc

A blue whale can reach a length of 100 feet.

▪ run the length of something (=exist along the whole length of something)

A long corridor ran the length of the building.

■ adjectives

▪ the total length

The total length of the completed railway line will be almost 650 kilometres.

▪ an average length

These worms grow to an average length of about 1 metre.

▪ the whole/full/entire length of something

The camera looks down the full length of the street.

▪ medium length

All the girls had short or medium length hair.

▪ equal/unequal length

She drew two lines of equal length.

▪ a maximum/minimum length

This species of fish can reach a maximum length of 12 inches.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.