Lexical Scale

Table of Contents

Read here about a type of scale. The relevance of this "scale" to the broader concern of "scale" as an "order of magnitude" is discussed.


Map scales may be expressed in words (a lexical scale), as a ratio, or as a fraction. Examples are:
  • 'one centimetre to one hundred metres' or 1:10,000 or 1/10,000
  • 'one inch to one mile' or 1:63,360 or 1/63,360
  • 'one centimetre to one thousand kilometres' or 1:100,000,000 or 1/100,000,000. (The ratio would usually be abbreviated to 1:100M).
Old maps may cause difficulties if they possess only a lexical scale in rare, old or even archaic units. For example a scale of one inch to a furlong is not too difficult to interpret in countries where Imperial units are, or were recently, in use. (It is 1/7920). A scale of one pouce to one league may be about 1/144,000 but it depends your choice of the many possible definitions for a league.

Lexical scales are to be deprecated whereas ratios (ratio scale) and fractions (fraction scale) are much more acceptable since they are immediately accessible in any langauge.