The vara, a Spanish unit of distance, was used in the Spanish and Mexican surveys and land grants in Texas. One vara equals approximately thirty-three and one-third inches; 5,645.4 square varas equal one acre; 1,900.8 varas equal one mile; and 1,000,000 square varas, which is one labor, equal approximately 177.1 acres. The word vara entered the Spanish language from vulgate Latin and originally meant a long, thin, clean branch of any tree or plant. It later came to be used for any straight stick and then for a lance. Next it came to mean a badge of office carried by mayors and judges and such officials and probably achieved a more uniform dimension. As a judge's lance, the vara assumed a position of official importance in the eyes of the people, began to be used as a measuring stick, and eventually became a unit of measurement.
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Juan Corominas, Diccionario Crítico Etimológico de la Lengua Castellana (Madrid: Editorial Gredos, 1954).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 19, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
February 5, 2019