We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Nautical Mile?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
WikiMotors is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WikiMotors, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A nautical mile is a unit of measurement used in aeronautics and maritime navigation. Some people also prefer to refer to a nautical mile as a sea mile, maritime unit, or sea unit, in a reference to the maritime usage of the measurement. When speed is given in nautical miles, the correct term is “knots,” as in “the ship traveled at 23 knots,” indicating that the ship was moving at a rate of 23 nautical miles per hour.

Technically, a nautical mile is equal to the length of one minute of arc in a great circle. If this statement has caused you to blink furiously in confusion, think about the Earth as a large orange. If you cut the orange in half along the middle, or equator, you have bisected the orange along one of its “great circles.” There are numerous other great circles, as a great circle is any line around a sphere which can be traced to cut the sphere precisely in half. There are 360 degrees in a great circle, and each degree can be further broken down into 60 minutes, sometimes called minutes of arc. Therefore, the Earth measures 21,600 nautical miles around the equator.

After much international debate, it has been agreed that a nautical mile is equal to 6,076 feet (1,852 meters). International agreement on the measurement of a nautical mile is important, since many treaties and agreements include nautical miles as a unit of measurement. Furthermore, it ensures smooth navigation between various nations, which is especially important for major trading partners. As a result, a nautical mile is recognized within the framework known as the International System of Units (SI), which is a system of measurements which have been clearly defined and agreed upon by most countries in the world.

Usage of nautical miles varies around the world. Since a nautical mile is not technically an SI measurement, some nations prefer to use distances which are recognized under this system, which prefers metric measurements like meters and kilometers to measurements such as inches and feet. In some regions, the nautical mile is heavily used and understood by seafarers, while other areas, distances may be expressed in other measurements, especially when an international team is cooperating on a project.

For anyone who is dying to know about the origin of “knot” as a term for a unit of speed in maritime navigation, the word is closely linked to the technique sailors used to employ to measure their speed. A weighted line would be thrown out from a ship by one sailor while another held a timer. Knots in the line were placed at precise lengths, so that the sailor could count off the knots to figure out how far the ship had traveled in a set amount of time, typically 30 seconds. This measurement could be extrapolated into an estimate of the overall speed of the ship, and while more precise navigational tools are used now, “knots” for speed continues to be used.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon83763 — On May 12, 2010

so what's the origin of the nautical mile?

By mwilson — On Sep 16, 2008

If a nautical mile is squared is it a nautical square mile, or a square nautical mile?

By anon13750 — On Jun 03, 2008

LOL. We're both right now. The original article read "21,600 miles", not "21,600 nautical miles". Thanks for making the change.

By anon13507 — On May 28, 2008

Gee I always thought the diameter of Earth was around 24,900 miles not 21,600 as in paragraph two. I think you used 5280 feet (mile) instead of 6076 (nautical mile) in your calculation.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WikiMotors, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WikiMotors, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.