HomeDIYWhat Comes First: Width, Length or Height? 

What Comes First: Width, Length or Height? 

How many times have you found yourself googling “does width or length come first” when doing some online shopping? Or when someone asks you to take the measurements of a mirror, a coffee table or a desk? 

When we were first moving into our house, I had a post-it stuck to my laptop screen with L x W x H = W x H x D written on it in the boldest, blackest font I could muster with a pencil. And even after buying dozens of items, I still had to refer back to it every time. 

So, if like me, you are confused about the order of the dimensions, let’s try to clear up the confusion once and for all. If you still need to refer back to this article, don’t worry: I had to double check what I was saying while writing too. 

What Comes First: Width, Length or Height? 

Measurements are always listed in the same order: length x width x height. If you also need to add depth, it will be the fourth number. A product that is 8 x 5 x 3” will be 8 inches long, 5 inches wide and 3 inches tall. 

Some confusion will arise depending on the number of sides. So, here is your standard envelope and your standard box. Hopefully this helps you grasp the length, width, height concept.

the measurements of an envelope
measurements of a box

What Order Do Measurements Go In?

Measurements always go in the same order. The first number is always the length, the second one is the width, and the third one is the height. The fourth number will be the depth. 

This order has been standardised to avoid confusion, and also just happens to be the order you usually measure things in. When you see an X x Y x Z measurement, know that it is always written down in this order. Unless of course someone is not aware of this standard, and is using their own arbitrary measuring system.

This order applies to both metric and imperial measurements, so inches and centimetres make no difference. 

What’s the Difference Between Length and Width?

Length is always the longest side of an item, while width will be the shorter side. This is often the most confusing part for most people. 

If you are measuring an envelope or a piece of paper, you will only have length and width. The longer side will be the length, and the shorter one will be the width, no matter which way you stand the item. 

However, there is a caveat here you need to know about. When it comes to artwork, picture frames and magazines, the two dimensions used are actually width by height. In this case, width is the shorter, horizontal dimension, while weight is the longer, vertical one. There is no length in this case, but the order is actually just the same. 

measurements of a picture frame

What Is W X H X D?

W x H x D is often used for describing the dimensions of boxes. It stands for width, height and depth. In essence, this is the same order as length, width and height, except that you have moved a step down in the order and are including depth. 

Let me explain that better. 

If you are buying a sofa for example that is 80″W x 38″H x 37″D, this will mean the sofa is 80 inches wide at its longest part. Confusing, right?

The height is rather obvious, while the depth refers to the distance between the front and the back of the couch. 

What is L and W and H?

In the L, W, H combination, L stands for length, W stands for width, and H stands for height. 

This is the standardised way dimensions are listed, to avoid any confusion when purchasing items. If you know the measurements you need, you will easily be able to source just the right size. 

How are Dimensions Listed in Order?

Dimensions are always listed in this order: length x width x height x depth. If one of them is missing, the order will still stay the same. 

When you see a measurement, it will practically always come with the right letters added, so you won’t have to question which stands for which. 

How Do You Read Item Dimensions? 

Dimensions are always read in the same order. It’s length x width x height x depth. 

You may also come across dimensions listed in a different order, however, that just means the person listing them was not sure about the order, and has mixed it up. 

What is the First Dimension?

The first dimension is always length, also known as the x-axis. Think of it as nothing more than a straight, horizontal line. 

Is Length or Width First in a Floor Plan?

In a floor plan, the width will always be listed first, and the length second. In this case, width is the horizontal dimension (side to side), while length is the vertical one (top to bottom). 

This is not quite what you may have been expecting, but if you actually looked at a floor plan, it would become quite apparent that the bigger number can’t possibly be the width, if that is the shorter part of the room. 

Do Floor Plans Include Height?

No, a floor plan does not include the height of the walls, or how tall the windows and doors are. This information will often be listed elsewhere. 

Is Length Bigger Than Width?

Yes, length refers to the longest side of a rectangle, while width is the shorter side. The length of a two-dimensional object will always be bigger than its width. 

Is Height and Depth the Same?

Depending on the field you are using the terms in, height and depth are not the same. For example, in construction, height will refer to objects above ground, while depth to objects below ground level. However, in terms of packaging and boxes, height and depth are essentially the same.

Is Width the Same as Length?

No, width and length are not the same. Length refers to the longest side of a two-dimensional object, while width is the shorter one. 

Is Width the Same as Height?

No, width and height are not the same. Width (and length) refer to horizontal dimensions, while height is a vertical dimension. 

Is It Length by Width or Width by Length?

It’s either length by width or width by height (if you are measuring a picture frame). 

Wrapping It Up 

Hopefully you are now better able to distinguish between length, width, height and depth. I understand it can be very confusing, so don’t feel bad if you routinely mix them up. With the exception of architects and builders, most people probably do too. 


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