Talk:English units

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This article was nominated for deletion on December 24, 2005. The result of the discussion was keep. An archived record of this discussion can be found here.

Moved from mediæval page[edit]

I'm moving the bulk of the content in the English units section of the Medieval weights and measures page. Jimp 13Jul05


Why was a score listed in the units list I've just moved? There was no mention of a dozen and well there should not have been for these are not units of measurements but words for numbers. Jimp 13Jul05

A Score of 20 lb has been used in much of the Baltic region, being a left over of the Hansiatic pound. We see also that the tower pound, 12 oz of 450 grains troy, is the same ounce that 16 make the pounds of Prussia and Scandinavia (~ 466g or 7200 grains troy)

Wendy.krieger 10:42, 3 September 2007 (UTC)

Maybe useful links[edit]

Haven't got time now to wade through it but here's something I've just stumbled on whilst looking on the web for "tower pound measurement".

Jimp 15Jul05

Scottish Units[edit]

Should the section on Scottish Units be moved from the mediæval page? Scotland is not part of England, of course, but that's not the point. Are the Scottish units a subset of the English ones (the U.S. ones are & the U.S. isn't part of England either)? Jimp 19Jul05

No, the Scottish units are more a parallel system. The English units are the ones used in the U.S., and in Scotland for several centuries as well, not the Scottish units. Gene Nygaard 02:05, 6 September 2005 (UTC)

Then what do we do with them? Should we make a new article, Scottish unit, and put them there? There's hardly enough there to warrant a whole article ... is there? There's no question of putting them back on the mediæval page because I've split it up by culture & then remerged it with the ancient page. Jimp 7Sep05

Gene, you say "The English units are the ones used in the U.S." they were used in the U.K., Ireland & the British Empire/Commonwealth to ... though the ones used here were (a) different version(s). Jimp 2Nov05

US measure is based on pre-imperial measures. The chief reforms of the Imperial Weights and Measures Act 1820 etc, is to clean up the many diverse gallons, remove many obsolete denominations, and to reform administration of the system. The "Winchester Wine Gallon", for example, is derived as such.
A cylinder, six inches in diameter and seven inches high (A.E. Berriman, Historical Metrology, DENT, 1953)
231 cubic inches (since the practice is to round to cubic inches: pi is thence 22/7)
0.8331 Imperial Gallons, where an imperial gallon is rated 277.274 cubic inches
0.8331 Imperial Gallons, in the new rating of 277.420 cu inches.
Unlike the USA, Scotland was independent, when the act of union brought England and Scotland into the United Kingdom. America was a former colony, abandoned in 1873. Such continued to use measures of that time. Wendy.krieger 11:07, 3 September 2007 (UTC)


Sad, now someone fixed that typo (“Untied States”). I love it. Christoph Päper 12:36, 21 July 2005 (UTC)

== Rktect's additions ==

I'd like Rktect to explain what the relevance of his references are. Some books he added:

  • The Ancient Near East
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • Bahrain throught the ages
  • Prehistory and Protohistory of the Arabian Peninsula
  • Mesopotamia 10 The Sumerian Language
  • Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East
  • The Archaeology of Ancient China
  • The Arabic Alphabet

among many others. It seems that he's again just pasting down his ancient civilizations references everywhere he can. Those books are not relevant to English unit. -- (drini|) 19:23, 6 October 2005 (UTC)

English units derive from Roman units. Very few people would dispute that. Roman units derive from Greek and Egyptian units through the Greek orders of architecture and through commerce. Fewer people know that but its well established in mainstream literature. Imperial English Units are the same exact units found in the Bible. If you have never read the Bible you might not know that, but everything I have mentioned so far can be found in Klein. Greek units derive from Egyptian and Mesopotamian units. People who are into coins know this pretty well. Egyptian units derive from Mesopotamian units.
To establish this it helps to read Gardiner and Gillings. Measurements are used to define property. For that I would cite Ken Kitchen. Even though he's not on the list of references you can probably google him if you want to. From the very first instances of international trade people agreed on their relative value and the system prevailed relatively unchanged for Millenia. Unfortunately, the farther back you take it the less familiar most people are with the discussion, so if I start talking about the Mari letters or Sargon talking about the Ships of Melluha, Makkan and Dilmun docking at the quays of Agade it helps to have Bahrain through the Ages and the Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia at your finger tips.
The Ancient Near East contains a number of references to interactions between civilizations that at a very minimum give you a list of whose involved with who and in what ways. The Epic of Gilgamesh and Bahrain through the Ages extend the interactions as far as India. The Pre-History and Protohistory of the Arabian Penninsula brings Arabia into the picture. Bahrain through the Ages begins to get into the weights and measures shared between Meluhha, Makkan, Dilmun and Mesopotamia

with pictures of Weights from Mesopotamia found at Lothal and weights from Mohenjo Daro and Harrappa found at Falika.

The Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East connects Mesopotamia, with Egypt, the Hittites, Greeks and Persians geting into the specifics of trade routes, trade goods, cylinder seals, early systems of mathematics writing weights and measures and and commercial exchange. Mesopotamia 10 is a basic grammar for Sumerian which helps when you are trying to read cuneiform inscriptions. The archaeology of Ancient China comes into the picture with the Silk Road. The Arabic Alphabet is a basic grammar for Arabic. I also included language references for Egyptian, Greek, Latin and Hittite. If you actually read all of those you would begin to understand why the the extent of the commercial networking in Roman times extends from Britain to China. Rktect 20:36, 6 October 2005 (UTC)
Ok, please dumb down things to me as I'm not at your level. Why is epic of gilgamesh relevant as REFERENCE? Some units relate to others, but the point of a reference is to backup statements made on the page. How is that epic being used? -- (drini|) 20:59, 6 October 2005 (UTC)

There is a progression, a sequence of steps from origininal independant invention, to final well refined standardized usage. A big part of that is who talked to whom when, and what were they discussing. In the Epic of Gillgamesh (and other stories of the period) you can look at what the word is in the original Sumerian and what the word is in the English translations. The word for cubit in Sumerian is ku. The standard Sumerian volume for grain is a measure called a gur. Gilgamesh and Enkidu go to Lebanon and get Cedar measured in ku, they go to the mountains and get metals measured in talents, mina and shekles, they go to Dilmun and Makkan and Melluha in ships that are designed to cross seas.

You can read about ships of 60 gur coming from Melluha, Makkan and Dilmun to the quays of Agade in the writings of Sargon, You can read about them in the law codes of Hamurrabi. That tells you there is an internationally recognized standard. Then you can add to that "Bahrain through the Ages", "The Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia", "The letter of Nanse", the rod of Gudea and all the tablets mentioning agricultural accounts from the Library at Ebla and add to that the mentions in the Code of Hammurrabbi. At the end of the day you have collected a number of references to units of measure which support one another to the effect that there were cubits used in Mesopotamia to measure the length of strides, the height of gates, the size of the trees used to get the boards to make the gates, the size of the ships, the size of the baskets used to carry the grain, the size of fields, the equivalent value of the containers of grain in silver and copper.

Its all part of the collection of references Rktect 15:27, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

No that's not a reference. I'm sorry. In such case ANY text that talks about "inches" or mention "miles" would become a reference. In all case, and being generous, that'd be a reference for an entry on ancient measures. -- (drini|) 01:48, 8 October 2005 (UTC)
Gilgamesh does talk about Miles or at least its English translation does.
" A square mile is a city, a square mile is a date grove, a square mile is claypit, half a square mile is the Temple of Ishtar." Placing the temple at the center with the city around it and the date grove around that and the clay pits on the outskirts you get a ring of concentric circles, or if you prefer squares, or squared circles such that the first contains 1/2 square mile, the second 1 1/2 square miles, the third 2 1/2 square miles and the fourth 3 1/2 square miles. What are their diameters and or sides? What length is the mile in feet or cubits? Its actually quite a neat little math problem as the Epic also includes information about the relative length of feet, cubits, rods, and leagues. In the original form the measures are given in a language many readers are illiterate in so I also provided linguistic references. Also, you don't always get all the information from a single source. Sometimes you need several sources to reinforce one another. Then when you have read all the sources and references things begin to make more sense. Rktect 13:54, 13 October 2005 (UTC)
"Mile" comes from "Mile Passum" in the latin, "a thousand paces" - mile is "thousand". I'm wary of your claim that Gilgamesh in its original uses "mile" and I don't think this is valid unless you can offer some etymological references proving that the Roman word for a thousand came from the language used in Gilgamesh (umm, sorry, would this be Akkadian? I am not sure). —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 17:03, 2 March 2007 (UTC).

Diamond on Stanley tape[edit]

The Diamond is useful to thrifty carpenters who want to save one stud, joist or rafter in seven by going to a slightly thicker plywood and adding the labor of cutting insulation, and its becoming a more common division with engineered lumber. The real reason for its existence is architectural and goes back through the Romans and Greeks and Persians to the Egyptians and Babylonians all of whom maintained this ratio of foot, remen and cubit which we know as...
The Golden Ratio: 1 x 0.7937 x 1.2599
Example: Desired net volume is 2.00 cf.
Take the cube root: 1.26 ft = 15.12 inch = Side A.
Now multiply side A x 0.7937 to get side B, or 12.00 in. Side C = side A x 1.2599 = 19.05 in. So
we have:
Side A = 15.12 inch = 1 Remen
Side B = 12.00 inch = 1 Foot
Side C = 19.05 inch = 1 Cubit
"19-2.In Persia some buildings at Persepolis and other places (25) are constructed on a foot of 9-6, or cubit of 19-2; while the modern Persian arish is 38.27 or 2X1913. The same is found very clearly in Asia Minor (25), averaging 193; and it is known in literature as the Pythic foot (18, 33) of 9.75, or 1/2 of I95, if Censorinus is rightly understood. It may be shown by a mark (33) on the 26th digit of Sharpes Egyptian cubit = 19.2 in."
[19.2" cubit]
In the time of Herodotus the Persian Empire included the territory of the Punics. The Punics were the people who brought the tin of the Chanel islands to the Mediterranean world to combine with copper to make bronze so this measure would have preceeded the use of Roman standards in Britain by several centuries. [unsigned by Rktect 13:06 UTC 14 October 2005]
What's your point, 3rkt3ct?
  1. You have at most some disjointed, unconnected lengths that happen to be, very roughly, the same size.
  2. How much of the above is direct quotes?
  3. Who are you quoting?
  4. What is each quote supposed to show?
  5. Why are you indenting your comments, 3rky, when yours are the first ones in this section? Don't you ever have any respect whatsoever for any formatting rules?
If we have a standard size for plywood and similar construction materials, and we want to support them on studs or rafters, then we want the ends of the sheets to meet on a stud. But we also need to have some support in between. So if you have an 8 ft sheet, splitting that 96 inches into six parts gives you the 16 inch spacing commonly used for wall studs in construction in English units. But in some applications, that much support isn't necessary. But you still want to divide the sheet into a number of parts that is a whole number, so that the ends of the sheet still end up on a support. The next integer less than six is five. There aren't any legitimate options in between. Splitting an 8 ft sheet into five parts means you need to space them at 8/5 ft = 1.6 ft, the spacing of those diamonds. Thus you save one stud in six on a long run, though not that much overall (how in the world did you come up with one in seven—must have forgotten that the ones on the end are shared by two sheets?). It really is as simple as that. It has nothing whatsoever to do with cubits, nor with the golden number. Gene Nygaard 16:04, 14 October 2005 (UTC)

Moved from Feudal measurement[edit]

Maybe someone should point out that these measurements only apply to ENGLAND! In the rest of Europe the measures were totally different (besides having totally different names). Luis rib 20:07, 26 July 2005 (UTC)

Sounds like a good reason to add these non-English units to the article, perhaps by breaking down the existing categories into national sub-categories. Geoff NoNick 21:15, 26 July 2005 (UTC)
Or better still: to merge the article with English unit. Note: there are articles for various other mediæval systems of measurement (just follow the link). Jimp 15Dec05
Agreed - go to it. Geoff NoNick 15:25, 15 December 2005 (UTC)
In fact the article could be split. The short introduction is quite general and might be moved to Systems of measurement#Mediæval measurements. The bulk of the article, however, as Luis Rib points out, concerns measurements only apply to England (except of some mention of Irish & Scottish units). Much of this parallels the info at English unit. What this article covers and English unit is missing could certainly be used over there. I think I'll begin the process of merging them. The first step will be duplicating the info here to English unit (Note: doing this will, of course, not necessitate merging the articles). Were the articles to be merged, though, I'd suggest redirecting this article to Systems of measurement. ... Later: The duplication has been done. What's left is to make the page a redirect as suggested. However, this talk page I'll redirect to Talk: English unit after moving the text there. ... Later still: It is done. Jimp 16Dec05

Might also want to point out that these measures were in no way precise and that the modern equivalents are totally approximated.... Morgan2317 03:41, 6 August 2005 (UTC)


Its not only foolish using such inferior pathetic untis as these are. Its stupid. CANT you guys get it that my weight is 70 kg and not 140 pounds? and that im 170cm tall and not 5 foot and 7 inches? i bought 4 liters water, not a galleon. Stop bieng one of the stupid ones and join us smart and intelligent people. The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk • contribs) .

This is of course a highly biased view. Wikipedia has a policy of neutral point of view, so despite what you may feel about the subject please stop trying to convert every article using imperial measures over to metric - it often results in changes to precision, and Wikipedia has a major audience (Americans) who don't use metric so it can be confusing. Add a metric conversion as an alternative if you like, that's more useful to everyone. Bryan 21:03, 29 January 2006 (UTC)
ok i´ll stop, but the only way for them to learn metric is for them to feel forced to use it. If everything is in metric dont you agree then they are forced to change?
I too prefer metric but this is not the point. Nor is Wikipedia a vehicle for metrication. It is not the purpose of the encyclopædia to force people to learn metric. One of its main purposes is to inform. Therefore it is handy to have dual measurements. Conversions, however, are less precise, as Bryan mentions, and should therefore go in brackets. Jimp 04:02, 24 February 2006 (UTC)
Any time you have to almost universally force people to do something, there's a problem...and not with the people, themselves.
In the case of English units of measure, the problem is that while engineers and bureaucrats constantly convert units of measure mathematically with a complex base-10 system, common people do not. It is much more convenient to cook with a binary system (a concept foreign to the relatively primitive science of the 18th century inventors of the SI system, who thought base-10 was the be-all and end-all of numbers) which divides fluid measure in halves, allowing a unit to fall close to what you need, than to deal in hundreds of milliliters. And if you're doubling a recipe from a quarter cup to a half cup, then you're told you must instead double 59 milliliters, you instantly see how English units are more convenient.
One can as reasonably condemn the stupidity of people willing to let their governments force them to switch to an arbitrary, barely post-renaissance system of tenths of units, just so their governments can find bureaucracy a bit more convenient. America's full of people whose ancestors left other countries, rather than deal with the arbitrary whims of authoritarian's natural that they are still culturally and behaviorally resistant to inconvenient government mandates, unlike their more passive, compliant cousins in the Old World. --Kaz 16:21, 9 March 2007 (UTC)
A "complex" base 10 system? What base do you count in? Imperial units have nothing to do with binary, and the only aspects of SI I can think of which depend on base 10 are the prefixes (k, M, G, etc.), which aren't really necessary, and the definition of the Amp (which involves ). Anyway, presumably there are legal standards in the USA which "force" people to use particular definitions of imperial units, just the same as those in countries which use SI units? I should also point out that if you read Binary numeral system, you will find out that binary was invented long before the 18th century. Oh, and all countries are full of people whose ancestors left other countries, otherwise how did they get there? :) 19:59, 12 September 2007 (UTC)
I'm lead to believe that decimal counting is something like normal counting, except that you jump from 99 straight to 100, and from 999 to a thousand (omg). Wendy.krieger 07:50, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

Alright, check it out... These comments are old, that's fine, but I'm still gonna chip in: For those of you doing this anti-American bashing, let me just remind you that this website is American-based, started by an American, and even uses American spelling in the name. If anything, Jimbo could easily command that all measurements be rendered into the American fashion. Secondly, try doing computer-related things in a base-10 system, where everything is base-8. Go ahead, try it. Tell me how it works out. —ᚹᚩᛞᛖᚾᚻᛖᛚᛗ (ᚷᛖᛋᛈᚱᛖᚳ) 01:43, 20 December 2009 (UTC)

Volume/mass conversion[edit]

Under the volume section, a mouthful is listed as equal to 1/2 ounce - this makes no sense unless the material which this applies to for is listed. e.g. a mouthful of lead will weigh a lot more than a mouthful of water...

Half a fluid ounce, i.e. about 15 ml. It makes perfect sense. Jimp 15:33, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

Currently the article says that a cask is 64 gallons, a barrel is two casks, and a barrel is 32 gallons, which would be half a cask. There's a problem here. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:39, 17 August 2009 (UTC)

isn't oz. the abbreviation for ounce (weight)? the entire section uses the abbreviation oz. when it should be floz (fluid ounce). I was going to change it myself but I'm not sure if this was intentional, and if it is I don't want to waste anybody's time with changing it back if I'm wrong. Hallaman3 (talk) 03:21, 17 January 2011 (UTC)


Why revert? The exact value doesn't take up much space and adds information. Night Gyr (talk/Oy) 15:29, 23 December 2006 (UTC)

This exact Value is only the current Definition, but the Value has differed (slightly) throughout History. Therefore a less accurate Figure is more appropriate. (Note that this Article is not just about the quite recent Imperial or US Customary System.) Christoph Päper 11:54, 27 December 2006 (UTC)
One should understand that the troy grain is so called, because there were formerly other grains, and that the most accurate weight was for that of precious metals, and that typically, avoirdepoise, or Handelmass, were defined in terms of jewelers weight. There was a grain avoirdupoise, 30 make a dram, 16 drams make the oz avoir. The tower grain reflects the old germanic division, where 1 lb = 12 oz, 1 oz = 20 dwt, 1 dwt = 32 grains, that 450 grains troy makes 640 grains tower. See reference below for this.
Zupko, Ronald Edward. A Dictionary of English Weights and Measures: From Anglo-Saxon Times to the Nineteenth Century. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968.
The imperial pound was defined in terms of prototype. Until 1844, this was a weight of 2 lb troy, or 11520 grains troy. When this standard was lost and a new one created, the new pound was constructed to 7000 grains troy.
Miller's 1844 figure, sanctioned for conversion factors in 1864, is 1 kg = 15432.34874 gt. In 1886, Broch found the kilogram to be 15 432.35639 gt, the 10 figure rounding of lb/kg forms the Mendenhall Order or US value. In 1933, the Pound yielded 0.453592338 kg. The international value was meant to be a multiple of 7 between the last two values, origionally 0.4535923, but later as 0.45359237 kg. Wendy.krieger 10:57, 3 September 2007 (UTC)

The disambiguation page for "handle" says that a handle is 1.76 liters. I always use the word handle to describe a big bottle o' rum - should it be on here? It's what I came here looking for after all. -- 03:43, 22 August 2007 (UTC)


The final paragraph of the intro reads:

Usage of the term "English System" or "English Unit" is common in the US, but it is problematical. It can be ambiguous. It usually refers to either the Imperial System or the US Customary System, and in cases where these two systems differ, it is not clear which system is being described. Some people also call 'it' the "British system" in the US. It is interesting to note that referring to 'this system' as the British or English system almost only occurs in the United States, mainly causing confusion in the United Kingdom when reading from American sources.

Now, I appreciate the rhetorical power of making this paragraph illustrate the very problem it describes, but it is perhaps less than useful. What do "it" and "this system" in the above paragraph refer to? The measurements used in England? The measurements used in the US? Or could we rephrase the last two sentences so that they doesn't imply that the term applies to one specific system? VoluntarySlave (talk) 19:46, 20 May 2008 (UTC)

No merge[edit]

This article documents a number of historical units which are no longer of practical use. It is best these be kept in their own article, so they don't clutter up the "United States customary units" article; people reading that article are probably interested in units still in use (at least occasionally). However, the introduction of this article is very unfocused and needs an overhaul. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 02:07, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

See discussion on Talk:United States customary units. Jdpipe (talk) 02:12, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The page English units is blocking this rename, and I'm afraid I've made a mess of it. This page needs to become English units, and English unit needs to redirect to English units. Previously this page was called English unit but it referred to a system of units, so it had the wrong name for what it was. Jdpipe (talk) 02:59, 16 November 2008 (UTC)

Merger proposal (Nov 2008)[edit]

Now that this page contains only UK historical measurements, and does not refer to US measurements, all content from this page should be merged with Imperial units. This page should then be deleted and replaced with a simple disambiguation page directing people to either:

Rationale: I am English (British) and recognise that the term "English units" generally refers to USCS, not Imperial. "English units" is not commonly used in England today to describe the historical system of measurement once used in England. The current content of this page is anachronistic. Andrew Oakley (talk) 10:29, 18 November 2008 (UTC)

Wouldn't it be useful to keep the Imperial units, which are still in limited use, and which must be used to interpret measurements made in the 20th century, apart from the purely historical units? --Gerry Ashton (talk) 13:12, 18 November 2008 (UTC)
So the question is: Is the article Imperial units rather historical, or practical? Maybe we could say that, while individual units are still used in certain cases, the system as such is rather historical.
Generally, I prefer a merge, because I think there is a lot of overlap between the two articles. I think that merging the lists of English units into the tables of Imperial units would make it much easier on our readers.
I also feel the connection with and distinction to avoirdupois could be made clearer. Or should that article be merged, too?
Another question: I was originally under the impression that "Imperial units" was used in the US as a synonym for United States Customary System. If that is the case, it might be better to call the merged article something like "Historical English units", and turn Imperial units into a redirect, as well? — Sebastian 18:24, 18 November 2008 (UTC)
People who have not thought about it much might call American customary units "Imperial units", but people who had to deal with Commonwealth countries knew better. Interestingly, the only law on the subject I know of calls them "denominations in use". --Gerry Ashton (talk) 18:42, 18 November 2008 (UTC)

Imperial units and English units should not be merged. Imperial Units is about the system defined by the 1824 UK law. English units is the article that describes the system of units in use in England prior to that standardisation. There is no conflict, and little overlap. Rhialto (talk) 16:12, 19 November 2008 (UTC)

Rhialto, as I pointed out, there is a lot of overlap. The overlap consists of the better part of the whole article Imperial units, as almost all units described there also occur in English units and they generally have the same relative values. If you disagree, please be specific. Just because it is possible to keep them separate doesn't mean we have to. — Sebastian 20:16, 19 November 2008 (UTC)
There is indeed a whole lot of overlap; that doesn't mean that this should be eliminated. "English units" is a much broader term; contrary to what Rhialto claims, English units did not go out of existence in 1824. That is a ridiculous claim. Gene Nygaard (talk) 03:13, 7 February 2009 (UTC)
Currently the fact that these two articles are separate is causing confusion, not solving it. If these two articles were merged, it would be easy to compare the two (pre and post 1824) and readers would be instantly informed. Currently everyone except the most diligent reader will assume that by reading one, but not the other, page, they have the whole story. This is wrong and needs to be fixed. Andrew Oakley (talk) 19:27, 19 November 2008 (UTC)

ok, specifically, since the imperial units article is intended to describe the 1824 weights and measures reformation, the following items in the English units article have no place in the imperial units article, as they were made obsolete by that act:

poppyseed barleycorn digit finger hand nail palm shaftment span cubit ell carucate bovate virgate hide knight's fee hundred Mouthful Jigger Jack or Jackpot Cup Pottle or Half Gallon Kenning Cask, Strike, or Coomb Hogshead Butt or Pipe Tun, all discussion of wine measure and brewery volume measures, nail clove tod, all discussion of troy tower mercantile and tron weights (basically, all but avoirdupois)

Conversely, any discussion of the specific definitions of certain units (foot, yard, pound, and so on) that were defined in the 1824 act are afterwards, along with discussion of teh modern usage of the units, belongs in the imperial units article.

Rhialto (talk) 22:41, 19 November 2008 (UTC)

There is a large amount of information in the imperial units article, and I have no doubt that a dedicated writer to expand the English units article quite considerably in detail (currently, it is little more than a list). Both together would put the overall article well above the recommended article length standard. And given that all units in the imperial units article have, until very recently (certainly within the adult lifetimes of the average wikipedian) been legally defined, whereas almost none of those in the English units one have (and some of those that are similarly named have radically different values from their modern definitions), there is a definite split in how the information can be logically organised.

I can see a case for a clearly-worded hat paragraph on each article directing readers to teh appropriate article, but not for a merger. Rhialto (talk) 23:02, 19 November 2008 (UTC)

Thank you for the explanation. The argument "the article could grow" is often heard in merge discussions; it's moot as long as nobody is actually planning to do so. But you have been a dedicated editor on the Imperial units article already, so if you are planning to expand the article in the near future, then I will support you. — Sebastian 00:01, 20 November 2008 (UTC)
I've been won over by the No campaign. Upon further reading there does seems to be quite a bit of difference between the pre-1824 and post-1824 measurement system, and both articles intro paras have been amended to make this distinction clear. Furthermore there are now disambiguation sections at the top of each article. Merger proposal withdrawn. Andrew Oakley (talk) 13:50, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
I'm impressed, Andrew - you are really a team player! Not only are you listening to others and willing to rethink your opinion, you also cleaned up by removing the tags. This deserves a barnstar! — Sebastian 02:05, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

A shambles[edit]

This article has degenerated to the point where it was alternatively claiming that

  1. The "English units" went out of existence in 1824, and
  2. In American English, "English units" means the customary units still used in the United States, to the exclusion of the imperial units.

Both notions are utter hogwash. Gene Nygaard (talk) 03:18, 7 February 2009 (UTC)

I have no reason to question the word of someone in the USA regarding the use of the term there. In England, however, the term "English units" has not been used for very many years. A reasonably intelligent person could guess at the intended meaning of course. But the common term in the UK for the foot-pound-second system(s) is "imperial units", to the near-exclusion of all other terms. Rhialto (talk) 10:23, 7 February 2009 (UTC)

site:* "imperial unit" -wikipedia 163 hits site:* "english unit" -wikipedia 141 hits

The results are skewed by the fact that "english unit" also refers to study course on the English language. The first two relevant hits are on page 3, and from the spelling conventions, they are obviously written by American authors, so can't be counted as UK usage. There's also a comment on the slug on that page, in which a UK author notes that Americans call it an "English unit" (and that the English never commonly used it, even in its own relevant context). The closest thing to a relevant UK usage was on page 7 (ie. more than halfway through the sum total of ALL results), in which the BBC website used the word to discuss NASA's mistakes in some project where the "metric and english" units were mixed up. In context though, it isn't clear whether those are the reporter's own words of merely the words of the original (US-based) source. In contrast, almost every hit from the start for "imperial unit" is relevant. Rhialto (talk) 10:23, 7 February 2009 (UTC)

Queen Anne's wine gallon in particular is most definitely not an "imperial unit"—so I don't give a damn how many times sloppy users of the language use the term "imperial units" when discussing something that can include the U.S. gallon, it isn't correct. Show me some evidence of what is used outside the United States to distinguish the broader system which includes short tons, which includes U.S. quarts, which includes Winchester bushels, from the narrower system of units legal for use in the "Empire" subsequent to the Weights and Measures Act of 1824. Showing normal usage when such a distinction isn't important doesn't show us anything.
And yes, slugs are English units, invented in the 20th century to fill out a coherent system of such units. They would be English units even if they hadn't been invented by an Englishman. Gene Nygaard (talk) 14:00, 7 February 2009 (UTC)
Try your Google search for
  • "English feet" 93 hits
some for the body parts or poetic feet, most for the units of length.
  • "English miles" 333 hits
Identifying particular units as "English" with a prenominal adjective in front of the unit's name means the same as calling them "English units".
Furthermore, more common terminology than "English units" in any variant of English is "English system". Look at the particularly relevant examples in textbooks an otherwise you get from the first two fuller phrases which eliminate lots of other English systems for something else with the following:
  • "English system" 4,990 hits
  • "English system of units" 8 hits
  • "English system of measurement" 11 hits
Just because Wikipedia chose to name its article "English units" doesn't mean that this is the most likely way you will find this system of units distinguished from other systems outside of that Wikipedia article.
Also in use is "British system" and "British miles" and the like. I'll leave it to you to follow that up. Gene Nygaard (talk) 14:28, 7 February 2009 (UTC)

Ponies and jiggers[edit]

The Volume section contradicts itself. It says a jigger is 1.5 ounces, and a jack is "Jigger × 2 = 2 oz." So how big is a jack, 2 or 3 ounces?

Here in the US a pony is .75 ounce, a jigger is 1.5 ounce, and a jack is half a gill, or 2 ounce. Rees11 (talk) 15:32, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

The math for "cask" also seems in error. PaulD 20 October 2009 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:21, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

I looked through the references and the only one that seems to specifically cover pre-1825 "English" units (as opposed to US or Imperial) is Klein. My library has a copy but it's in storage. It doesn't mention jiggers. Apparently a jigger was 1 ounce at one time but is now, at least in the US, 1.5. A pony is always half a jigger. I'm not sure about casks, I thought a cask was a container and could be any size. I'll keep looking for sources. For now I'm going to just take out cask, since it's obviously wrong. Rees11 (talk) 13:26, 21 October 2009 (UTC)

I've removed the mentions of jiggers and ponies, as they're U.S. terms. I also removed mouthfuls and handfuls. Klein, an American, does mention the jigger as a unit, saying it was the term for a quarter-gill in Elizabethan England, and that it was also called a "handful", and that half a jigger was called a "mouthful", but he's wrong. It's a misinterpretation of a table created by Leake in "The Old Egyptian Medical Papyri", Kansas 1952. Leake mistakenly includes the U.S. term jigger, which he equates to an ounce, in a list of what he calls "old English measures". But there's no etymological evidence to support that. He also lists the terms mouthful, handful, cupful, jugful, and pitcherful; it's not clear whether he purports these to be actual ancient Egyptian units, or figurative descriptions of multiples of the Egyptian ro unit, but he certainly doesn't intend to say they were old English units. I don't know if Klein read Leake directly, or if it was filtered through some other source, but when he talks about the "the jigger, or handful, of Elizabethan England" and "the Elizabethan mouthful", he's simply gone off the rails. -- IamNotU (talk) 17:02, 14 August 2017 (UTC)

Why does this article even mention US and Imperial?[edit]

This article is supposed to be about English units, not US or Imperial. So I find it confusing that it says things like this:

Gill: Jack × 2 = 4 oz (U.S.) or 5 oz (imperial)

Shouldn't it just say "Gill: Jack × 2 = 4 oz"? Rees11 (talk) 14:54, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

Yes (well, 5 ounces). — Christoph Päper 07:33, 2 August 2010 (UTC)

Please decide what system this page describes![edit]

IMO This article is extremely confused and confusing as to which system of measure is being referred to, as has been alluded to above. It desperately needs clarification. As a well-educated British person, I believe that the proper term for the measure we use if it is not metric is "Imperial", not "English". It could be that some people in this PC-obsessed world are starting to use the term "English" because they don't want to be "Imperialistic", but that doesn't change the fact that the measures themselves are different. Please can we have a clear statement as to what is meant, avoiding terms like English as (a) it excludes the Welsh, Irish and Scots and (b) is apparently very confusing for citizens of the USA who believe their system is "English" - although why I can't imagine :-)

In particular, the comment in the para above "Jack × 2 = 4 oz (U.S.) or 5 oz (imperial)" should IMO read just "Jack × 2 = 5 oz" as it should be understood that we're talking Imperial units from the start. For the US equivalent, there is already a separate Wiki page.

I could see some benefit in having a clear comparison page that compares the units, as is done in some other fields; this should be a table including the common names and their conversions. However, pages like the current one are not the place, as the result is the confusion vividly seen above.

BTW I have re-rendered the graph provided by Crissov using the filename English_mass_units_graph_Ai.svg, which might be clearer. Feel free to use!

Ruth RIvimey 13:23, 2 Dec 2010 (UTC)

Well educated? That must be wonderful for you. The first sentence says something like "English units refers to the historical units of measurement in medieval England,..." which were replaced by Imperial units in 1824. Doubtless the Welsh, Irish, and Scots had their own systems of units, too; this craze for standardization didn't really catch on till well into the 1700's. At Sears or Canadian Tire you may see a 13/16 inch wrench called "English" units, but for some reason a 15 mm wrench is only ever "Metric" and never "French". --Wtshymanski (talk) 22:57, 2 December 2010 (UTC)
I'm completely uninterested in Canadian Tire; the heading on the page states quite clearly that this page relates to England (UK), not USA or Canada, and I don't ever remember someone referring to feet/yards etc as "English Units" here.

Ruth RIvimey 23:53, 2 Dec 2010 (UTC)

"English units" is a term of art in historical metrology. In other words, a technical term used by historians who specialize in studying the history of weights and measures. It means the units of measure used in England before 1824. For example, the Queen Anne gallon is an English unit. It also happens to be a unit in US customary system of units. Imperial units generally refers to the period 1824 - 1971, with some units phased out after 1971 (pennyweight, for example, in 1985) and a very few (troy ounce) retained to the present. English units are important to those of who live "in the colonies" (USA for example) because it's relevant to our history. As a citizen of the USA, I like to know where my gallons come from. Zyxwv99 (talk) 03:30, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

Dram & ounce[edit]

It is written here that a dram/drachm (dr) is 27.34375 gr. How can this be a sixteenth of an ounce when 1 ounce (oz) ≈ 28 g? Sae1962 (talk) 12:30, 13 January 2011 (UTC)

An ounce is 437.5 grains. A dram is 1/16 ounce. 437.5/16 = 27.34375. Indefatigable (talk) 16:04, 13 January 2011 (UTC)
The conversion is exactly 875⁄32 = 27.34375. No approximations are needed. Dbfirs 07:15, 17 November 2011 (UTC)

Metric irrelevant[edit]

Please don't stick metric conversion templates all over this article at random. The modern SI system is irrelevant to the purpose of this article, which is to describe a no-longer-extant system of units. Any conversion factors you find in a template will be wrong, and many of the units have no fixed conversion to modern units any way. You will be misleading readers badly if you insist that a "firkin" is mumblety-mumble cubic centimeters or whatever half-baked conversions someone had put into the last revision of a table. --Wtshymanski (talk) 05:13, 7 March 2011 (UTC)

I guess you're right. I won't insist. Xionbox 06:18, 7 March 2011 (UTC)
What might be useful instead of the usual template conversion is to give an appropriate, referenced, order of magnitude comparision between the ancient units and modern SI equivalents - as is done here, for example, for barrel. But since the definitions of units varied wildly, it's going to take some pretty sound sources to give equivalents in modern measures. --Wtshymanski (talk) 19:28, 7 March 2011 (UTC)

Tower and Troy[edit]

The Troy and Tower pounds and their subdivisions were used for coins and precious metals. The Tower pound, which is based upon an earlier Anglo-Saxon pound, was abolished in 1527.
In terms of (silver) currency a pound was 20 shillings of 12 pennies each (i.e. 240) from the late 8th century (Charlemagne/Offa of Mercia) to 1971 in the United Kingdom, but lighter than a troy one. Most old European currencies, like mark, shilling/solidus/groschen/øre, penny/pfennig/denar, taler/dollar/krone, florin/gulden/guilder/pound/złoty also belong into this monetary system.

The second paragraph has problems.

" 1971 in the United Kingdom" They stopped making silver pennies in the 19th century. The pennies stopped being 1/240 of a Troy pound long before that. Unfortunately, I can't supply the exact date at this time, so I can't fix it.
"...but lighter than a troy one." I'm going to erase that phrase right now.
"Most old European currencies, like mark, shilling/solidus/groschen/øre, penny/pfennig/denar, taler/dollar/krone, florin/gulden/guilder/pound/złoty also belong into this monetary system."

No they don't. Pre-1824 British silver pennies and post-1824 British silver pennies don't even belong to the same monetary system. What all those systems have in common is the use of gold, silver, and other metals in the same column of the periodic table of elements, measured in weight systems strongly influenced by the Roman Empire and Charlemagne's Empire. If you don't mind, I'm going to delete that sentence too.

Zyxwv99 (talk) 22:47, 16 November 2011 (UTC)

Factual Errors in Introductory Section[edit]

"After the Norman conquest, Roman units were reintroduced. The resultant system of English units was a combination of the Anglo-Saxon and Roman systems."

The Normans introduced the bushel to England, but otherwise had little effect on English weights and measures. William the Conqueror, in one of his first legislative acts, merely confirmed the decrees of the Wessex Kings and existing usages. He also had the physical standards moved from Winchester to London. The changeover to something more nearly resembling the Roman system occurred between 1266 and 1304 as a result of the Compositio Ulnarum et Perticarum (Composition of Yards and Perches)[1]

"Later development of the English system continued by defining the units by law in the Magna Carta of 1215,..."

The Magna Carta of 1215 had little effect on British metrology. Chapter 35 (the relevant chapter) only mentions one unit of measure (the London Quarter) but doesn't define it.

Zyxwv99 (talk) 02:25, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

  1. ^ Great Britain (1762). The statutes at large: from the Magna Charta, to the end of the eleventh Parliament of Great Britain, anno 1761 [continued to 1807]. The statutes at large. 1. Printed by J. Bentham. p. 400. Retrieved 30 November 2011.

Gentlemen these facts discussed in "British weights and measures: Zupko 1977 allow the calculation of these ancient measures

The Magna Carta of 1215 established the rights of English citizens, limited the power of their kings, and later served as a model for the U.S. constitution of 1789. This document was forced onto King John of England by feudal barons in an attempt to limit his powers by law and protect their privileges. Among these rights was that of a fair and honest set of standard measures to be used by all in the transactions of commerce. The Magna Carta in Section 35 states:

Let there be one measure of wine throughout our whole realm; and one measure of ale; and one measure of corn, to wit, "The London quarter"; and one width of cloth (whether dyed, or russet, or "halberget" to wit, two ells within the selvedges; of weights also let it be as of measures.

In 1266 King Henry III issued the Composito, a new declaration which replaced the Saxon Rod of 15 Saxon feet with a rod of 16.5 new English feet while maintaining the exact length of the Rod. This new Rod established all land measurements in English feet rather than the previous Saxon feet. The new length of the English foot is unchanged today at 304.8 mm in the modern metric system.

The measure of pints, gallons, and bushels had been guaranteed by the London Quarter which in turn had been based on a smaller ancient Celtic foot. The dimensions of the legal volumes would need to be reestablished using very odd fractions of the new feet and inches or a new method, independent of the length of the foot, would need to be found.

In 1303 King Edward 1st declared that the original London Quarter was lost and issued a decree intended to establish its equivalent volume as well as the resulting wheat and wine standards. Expanding upon the Magna Carta in his “Tractatus de ponderibus et mensuris”, he decreed:

The London Quarter mentioned in the Magna Carta be fixed at a capacity of 8 struck (level) bushels. It declared that 8 tower pounds of wheat made the gallon of wine and that 8 gallons of wine made the London Bushel. 

Gentlemen this bushel would weigh exactly 64 mercantile pounds of water and a simple calculation in metric units documented by Zupko yield a weight of 28 kilograms and a volume of 28 liters exactly or 28000 cubic cm. as an engineer i would expect this volume to be described as a cube of certain dimensions. the cube root of 28000 is 303.658 mm. this length is within 1/2 mm of the length of the Ancient Minoan foot. We then can consider the bushel to be one ancient cubic foot, the gallon to be a cube of half this size, and the quarter a cube twice this size. The pint would be a cube 1/4 this size. The old saying "a pint a pound the world round" would have been exact and true in the days of the Magna Carta.

Roland A. Boucher, Engineer Yale 55 11 deerspring Irvine Ca 92604 e-mail

So the imperial & US system are not English[edit]

Naturally, the content of this article should be focused on historical units; the imperial & US systems have their own articles. It is one thing to focus an article on this or that aspect of a subject; to conflate the article's focus with the definition of the subject is something else. The article is now claiming that with the introduction of the imperial system these units ceased being English. The imperial system simply refined the units; how did it remove the Englishness from them? Surely 1824 wasn't the first time the system was refined. Similarly, bringing the units to America (as with Australia, Canada, etc.) didn't cancel their Englishness. It was still the same set of units (they just happened to get refined a little differently), just as the Americans still speak English. JIMp talk·cont 00:24, 5 March 2012 (UTC)

This article does not claim that with the introduction of the imperial system these units ceased being English. Rather this article conforms with contemporary academic usage. By way of analogy, many historians use 476 AD as a convenient dividing line between ancient times and the Middle Ages. That doesn't mean that in 476 people suddenly took off their togas and began jumping up and down, shouting, "Hooray! Ancient times are over!"
Your concern does, however, raise a good point. Maybe we need both an article and a category that encompasses English units, Imperial units, and United States customary units. The article should be mainly a disambiguation page pointing not only to the three above-named articles, but also to articles for the individual units. Perhaps the units could be arranged in tables. Then there is the question of what to call it. The name "English units" is already taken. What we need is a new name. I am reluctant to suggest Anglophile units. Certainly not Anglo-Saxon units. Any suggestions? Zyxwv99 (talk) 15:37, 11 March 2012 (UTC)

The article starts with "English units are the historical units of measurement used in England up to 1824, which evolved as a combination of the Anglo-Saxon and Roman systems of units." The "up to 1824" clearly excludes the imperial system. The "in England" seems to exclude US units too. The rest of he article, however, implies otherwise. It's probably time for a bit of a tidy up. As for creating another article to properly cover the topic, how about Historic English units? The new Historic English units article would cover the pre-1824/pre-US period and this article would be the general page. In other words, split out all the details of the older systems into a new article leaving this to cover the general topic. I'm just not sure that we're at the stage yet where that would be necessary. JIMp talk·cont 07:23, 1 June 2013 (UTC)

Problems with chart[edit]

Chart showing the relationships of weight measures (in the Weight section) has several problems: 1) WP:OR, 2) "Source: made from scratch with Graphviz based on data from en:English unit" WP:CIRCULAR, and 3) it historically inaccurate.

The pennyweight is derived from the dirhem, not the grain. The Tower weight system used a different sort of grain (wheat grain) not related to the grain used today (barleycorn). Although the Troy and Apothecary systems seem to be related, it is not clear which came first. And finally, the avoirdupois pound came into general use in the early 1300s, but didn't acquire a grain unit until 1588.

For these reasons, I feel the diagram should be removed. Zyxwv99 (talk) 14:06, 28 June 2012 (UTC)

For me, the main problem with that chart is it looks messy. It's also inconsistent with other weights and measures pages, which use a series of tables to show the relationships between units. Rhialto (talk) 07:51, 18 March 2017 (UTC)

Problems with structure and with Volume section Comment[edit]

The whole article needs a restructuring and reformatting!

To clarify the purpose of the article, English units refer to the measurement systems legally defined in the U.K. up until 1963, when Imperial units were defined.

Many of the measurements listed here are actually from the English apothecaries' system, which were not (always? ever?) defined by English or U.K. laws, so those need to be figured out and separated, while others are from the English avoirdupois system.

Also, instead of lists of measurements, all of these should be presented as tables, with appropriate columns for conversion to Imperial and Metric measurements, at least.

I am going to start revising the Volume section along the lines proposed here. — Preceding unsigned comment added by PetesGuide (talkcontribs) 19:44, 11 September 2016 (UTC)

Well, no: why start by redefining the topic of the article? At the very top it says: "This article is about the historical development of measurement in England up to 1826 [not 1963!!]. For the non-metric measurement system used in the UK, see Imperial units." In other words, the usage of "English" here is the normal usage by English people (that is, people from England, like me), meaning "pertaining to England". So it has nothing to do with whether units were defined by law, English or otherwise. Imaginatorium (talk) 04:07, 12 September 2016 (UTC)
I don't have a scruple against Mr Guide's proposal to clarify things by moving this content to Traditional English units of measurement: it's how we treat most of these articles. He obviously didn't think through his suggestion, though, or he would have realized official English units stopped existing in 1707 and there's no need to split an official British units page at 1963. — LlywelynII 04:22, 18 March 2017 (UTC)