I ask in an international context, and NOT only for New York. I'd cherish a picture to visualise the definitin. For example, NY Times fails to define the word, whereas the dictionaries appear conflicting and vague. Even Straightdope's apparently catholic answer hedges with the word apparently?

2.3. [North American] Any urban or suburban area bounded by four streets

4. [countable] (North American English) the length of one side of a piece of land or group of buildings, from the place where one street crosses it to the next

NY Times only worsens my confusion: 'North-south' implies 1 mile = 20 blocks, but this differs from 'The distance between avenues'? What are 'short blocks' and 'long blocks'?

Straightdope.com: Apparently the answer to the question hinges upon which city, and within that city, what is defined as a block.

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    I'm not sure there is any international context. 'Blocks' aren't used at all as a measurement in the UK, where almost nothing is built to a grid system. 'Blocks' only work if you can see, walk, judge by what is around you. Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 9:02
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    When dictionaries appear conflicting and vague, you should take that as a sign that there is no precise meaning. A "block" is not like a mile or a kilometer.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 12:23
  • Short-blocks/long blocks: distance between streets running N/S is different from that of streets running E/W.
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 15:50

1 Answer 1


Here are maps of two different U.S. cities, Salt Lake City (left) and Philadelphia (right). I have marked what I would consider one block for each of those downtown areas. As you can see, the streets are closer together in Philadelphia, meaning the blocks have longer measurements in Salt Lake City.

enter image description here

In a residential neighborhood, someone might say, "I'm going to take a walk around the block," which would essentially mean any cicuitous route that would take you back to your origin. For example, a stroll around the block in this neighborhood might be anywhere from two-thirds to a full kilometer, depending on whether I started by walking north or south:

enter image description here

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