VARA. 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.
Juan Corominas, Diccionario Crítico Etimológico de la Lengua Castellana (Madrid: Editorial Gredos, 1954).
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Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on February 11, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.