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Long vs. Length: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 3, 2023
Long is an adjective describing something of great extent, while length is a noun denoting the measurement of how long something is.

Key Differences

"Long" is primarily an adjective used to describe the extent or duration of something from end to end. It can refer to spatial dimensions as well as temporal durations. When we say, "The road is long," we're referring to the road's extent in space. In contrast, "length" is a noun that specifies the exact measurement of how long something is. It quantifies the distance between two points, as in, "The length of the road is five miles."
In usage, "long" can also function as an adverb in contexts that describe an action extended over time, such as "waiting long." "Length," however, remains a noun and often pairs with units of measurement or is used in abstract contexts, like "at great lengths" to mean doing whatever it takes to achieve something. "Long" in its various forms adapts to indicate duration or size, while "length" is a specific dimension.
You'll find "long" used in various comparative and superlative forms – longer, longest – to show relative or maximum extents or durations. It’s also used in expressions such as "long-lasting" to indicate duration over time. "Length," on the other hand, is something you measure. A discussion on "length" often involves numbers: the length of a piece of string, the length of a book, etc.
In literature, "long" can be used figuratively to describe a list of grievances or experiences, for instance, "a long list of complaints." Meanwhile, "length" can be used to describe not just physical dimensions, but also the extent to which someone might go to accomplish a goal. It has a more tangible and less flexible usage compared to "long."
"Long" thus has a broader application and can be qualitative, while "length" is more quantitative. For example, someone might express a qualitative assessment with "The lecture felt long," but quantify it with "The length of the lecture was two hours."

Comparison Chart

Part of Speech

Adjective (sometimes adverb)


Describes or compares extent/duration.
Specifies measurement.


Can be used in comparative forms.
Generally used as a singular noun.


Temporal, spatial, abstract.
Primarily spatial, sometimes abstract.


Qualitative descriptor.
Quantitative measure.

Long and Length Definitions


They spoke long into the night.


She cut a length of ribbon for the gift.


She longed to see her family again.


The length of the boat was impressive.


The debate was long and tiresome.


His speech went to a great length to explain the policy.


Size of clothing.
He wears a size long in suits.


Duration in terms of distance.
He swam a length of the pool in record time.


Extending far.
The hallway was so long, it seemed to stretch endlessly.


The pool measured fifty lengths back and forth.


Extending or traveling a relatively great distance.


The state, quality, or fact of being long. See Usage Note at strength.


The measurement of the extent of something along its greatest dimension
The length of the boat.


Is "length" always a physical measure?

Mostly, but it can also refer to an extent in abstract terms.

Can "long" be an adverb?

Yes, as in "not long ago."

Is "length" used in math?

Yes, it's a common term for one-dimensional measure.

Can "long" be used relatively?

Yes, e.g., "longer" or "longest."

Can "long" indicate height?

Not usually, "long" typically refers to the horizontal dimension.

Does "length" refer to movies or books?

Yes, to indicate duration or number of pages.

Can "long" be used for time?

Yes, it can describe a duration.

Does "length" imply end-to-end measurement?

Yes, it’s the distance from one end to another.

Do "lengths" have plural form?

Yes, particularly when referring to multiple pieces or units.

Can "long" describe emotional desires?

Yes, as in "longing for something."

Is "long" used in idioms?

Yes, such as "a long shot."

Can "length" apply to music?

Yes, for the duration of a piece or song.

Is "long" subjective?

It can be, as in "the day felt long."

How does "long" relate to "longitude"?

They share a root regarding horizontal distance.

Can "length" be subjective?

Less commonly, as it usually indicates an objective measure.

Can "length" be used in sports?

Yes, like the "length of the field" or "pool."

Does "long" have a standard measure?

No, it's relative to context.

Can "length" be estimated?

Yes, but it's more often precisely measured.

Is "long" used for clothing sizes?

Yes, particularly for tall individuals.

Is "length" used in expressions?

Rarely, it's more literal.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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