The yard is a unit of distance equal to 3 feet (36 inches) or 0.9144 meters. The name originates with the old German word gazdaz for a staff or stick, which could be used for measurement. This changed to gierd in old English and eventually to yard. The yard-arm of a sailing ship – a tapered spar used to support a square sail – harkens back to the earlier meaning. In France, the equivalent of the yard measure is called a "verge," from the Latin virga for a stick or rod.