Stone (unit)

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stone
BLW Wool Weight with the Royal Arms of England.jpg
A 16th-century bronze 1 stone weight emblazoned with the English coat of arms
General information
Unit system British imperial
Unit of Mass
Abbreviationst

The stone or stone weight (abbreviation: st.) [1] is an English and imperial unit of mass equal to 14  pounds (approximately 6.35 kg). [nb 1] The stone continues in customary use in the United Kingdom and Ireland for body weight.

Contents

England and other Germanic-speaking countries of northern Europe formerly used various standardised "stones" for trade, with their values ranging from about 5 to 40  local pounds (roughly 3 to 15 kg) depending on the location and objects weighed. With the advent of metrication, Europe's various "stones" were superseded by or adapted to the kilogram from the mid-19th century on.

Antiquity

Stone weight with Darius the Great-era tri-lingual inscription. 9,950g Weight-stone.jpg
Stone weight with Darius the Great-era tri-lingual inscription. 9,950g
The Eschborn Museum's 2nd-century stone weight of 40 Roman pounds (c. 13 kg), beside an ID-1-sized card for scale. RomanStoneWeight.jpg
The Eschborn Museum's 2nd-century stone weight of 40 Roman pounds (c. 13 kg), beside an ID-1-sized card for scale.

The name "stone" derives from the use of stones for weights, a practice that dates back into antiquity. The Biblical law against the carrying of "diverse weights, a large and a small" [7] is more literally translated as "you shall not carry a stone and a stone (אבן ואבן), a large and a small". There was no standardised "stone" in the ancient Jewish world, [8] but in Roman times stone weights were crafted to multiples of the Roman pound. [9] Such weights varied in quality: the Yale Medical Library holds 10 and 50-pound examples of polished serpentine, [10] while a 40-pound example at the Eschborn Museum is made of sandstone. [11]

Great Britain and Ireland

The 1772 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica defined the stone: [12]

STONE also denotes a certain quantity or weight of some commodities. A stone of beef, in London, is the quantity of eight pounds; in Hertfordshire, twelve pounds; in Scotland sixteen pounds.

The Weights and Measures Act of 1824, which applied to all of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, consolidated the weights and measures legislation of several centuries into a single document. It revoked the provision that bales of wool should be made up of 20 stones, each of 14 pounds, but made no provision for the continued use of the stone. Ten years later, a stone still varied from 5 pounds (glass) to 8 pounds (meat and fish) to 14 pounds (wool and "horseman's weight"). [13] The Act of 1835 permitted using a stone of 14 pounds for trade [14] but other values remained in use. James Britten, in 1880 for example, catalogued a number of different values of the stone in various British towns and cities, ranging from 4 lb to 26 lb. [15] The value of the stone and associated units of measure that were legalised for purposes of trade were clarified by the Weights and Measures Act 1835 as follows: [14]

PoundsUnitStonekg
11 pound1140.4536
141 stone16.350
281 quarter212.70
1121 hundredweight850.80
2,2401 (long) ton1601,016

England

The English stone under law varied by commodity and in practice varied according to local standards. The Assize of Weights and Measures, a statute of uncertain date from c.1300, describes stones of 5  merchants' pounds used for glass; stones of 8 lb. used for beeswax, sugar, pepper, alum, cumin, almonds, [16] cinnamon, and nutmegs; [17] stones of 12 lb. used for lead; and the London stone of 12+12 lb. used for wool. [16] [17] In 1350 Edward III issued a new statute defining the stone weight, to be used for wool and "other Merchandizes", at 14 pounds, [nb 2] reaffirmed by Henry VII in 1495. [19]

A nineteenth-century slide rule for estimating cattle carcass weights, calibrated in stones of 20,
17+1/2, 8 and 14 pounds Ewart's Improved Cattle Gauge.png
A nineteenth-century slide rule for estimating cattle carcass weights, calibrated in stones of 20, 17+12, 8 and 14 pounds

In England, merchants traditionally sold potatoes in half-stone increments of 7 pounds. Live animals were weighed in stones of 14 lb; but, once slaughtered, their carcasses were weighed in stones of 8 lb. Thus, if the animal's carcass accounted for 814 of the animal's weight, the butcher could return the dressed carcasses to the animal's owner stone for stone, keeping the offal, blood and hide as his due for slaughtering and dressing the animal. [21] Smithfield market continued to use the 8 lb stone for meat until shortly before the Second World War. [22] The Oxford English Dictionary also lists: [23]

CommodityNumber of pounds
Wool14, 15, 24
Wax12
Sugar and spice8
Beef and mutton8

Scotland

The Scottish stone was equal to 16 Scottish pounds (17 lb 8 oz avoirdupois or 7.936 kg). In 1661, the Royal Commission of Scotland recommended that the Troy stone be used as a standard of weight and that it be kept in the custody of the burgh of Lanark. The tron (or local) stone of Edinburgh, also standardised in 1661, was 16 tron pounds (22 lb 1 oz avoirdupois or 9.996 kg). [24] [25] In 1789 an encyclopedic enumeration of measurements was printed for the use of "his Majesty's Sheriffs and Stewards Depute, and Justices of Peace, ... and to the Magistrates of the Royal Boroughs of Scotland" and provided a county-by-county and commodity-by-commodity breakdown of values and conversions for the stone and other measures. [26] The Scots stone ceased to be used for trade when the Act of 1824 established a uniform system of measure across the whole of the United Kingdom, which at that time included all of Ireland. [27]

Ireland

Before the early 19th century, as in England, the stone varied both with locality and with commodity. For example, the Belfast stone for measuring flax equaled 16.75  avoirdupois pounds. [28] The most usual value was 14 pounds. [29] Among the oddities related to the use of the stone was the practice in County Clare of a stone of potatoes being 16 lb in the summer and 18 lb in the winter. [29]

Modern use

In 1965 the Federation of British Industry informed the British government that its members favoured adopting the metric system. The Board of Trade, on behalf of the government, agreed to support a ten-year metrication programme. There would be minimal legislation, as the programme was to be voluntary and costs were to be borne where they fell. [30] Under the guidance of the Metrication Board, the agricultural product markets achieved a voluntary switchover by 1976. [31] The stone was not included in the Directive 80/181/EEC as a unit of measure that could be used within the EEC for "economic, public health, public safety or administrative purposes", [32] though its use as a "supplementary unit" was permitted. The scope of the directive was extended to include all aspects of the EU internal market from 1 January 2010. [33]

With the adoption of metric units by the agricultural sector, the stone was, in practice, no longer used for trade; and, in the Weights and Measures Act 1985, passed in compliance with EU directive 80/181/EEC, [32] the stone was removed from the list of units permitted for trade in the United Kingdom. [34] [35] [36] In 1983, in response to the same directive, similar legislation was passed in Ireland. [37] The Act repealed earlier acts that defined the stone as a unit of measure for trade. [36] (British law had previously been silent regarding other uses of the stone.)

The stone remains widely used in the UK and Ireland for human body weight: in those countries people may commonly be said to weigh, e.g., "11 stone 4" (11 stones and 4 pounds), rather than "72 kilograms" as in most of the other countries, or "158 pounds", the conventional way of expressing the same weight in the US. [38] The correct plural form of stone in this context is stone (as in, "11 stone" or "12 stone 6 pounds"); in other contexts, the correct plural is stones (as in, "Please enter your weight in stones and pounds"). In Australia and New Zealand, metrication has almost entirely displaced stones and pounds since the 1970s.

In many sports in both Britain and Ireland, such as professional boxing, wrestling, and horse racing, [39] the stone is used to express body weights.

Elsewhere

The use of the stone in the British Empire was varied. In Canada for example, it never had a legal status. [40] Shortly after the United States declared independence, Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, presented a report on weights and measures to the U.S. House of Representatives. Even though all the weights and measures in use in the United States at the time were derived from English weights and measures, his report made no mention of the stone being used. He did, however, propose a decimal system of weights in which his "[decimal] pound" would have been 9.375 ounces (265.8 g) and the "[decimal] stone" would have been 5.8595 pounds (2.6578 kg). [41]

A depiction of a medieval German scale weighing bales of wool according to the local stone. Fotothek df tg 0000212 Waage.jpg
A depiction of a medieval German scale weighing bales of wool according to the local stone.

Before the advent of metrication, units called "stone" (German: Stein; Dutch: steen; Polish: kamień) were used in many northwestern European countries. [42] [43] Its value, usually between 3 and 10 kg, varied from city to city and sometimes from commodity to commodity. The number of local "pounds" in a stone also varied from city to city. During the early 19th century, states such as the Netherlands (including Belgium) and the South Western German states, which had redefined their system of measures using the kilogramme des Archives as a reference for weight (mass), also redefined their stone to align it with the kilogram.

This table shows a selection of stones from various northern European cities:

CityModern countryTerm usedWeight of
stone in
kilograms
Weight of
stone in
local pounds
Comments
Dresden [44] GermanyStein10.1522Before 1841
10.020From 1841 onwards
Mecklenburg-Strelitz [44]
Berlin [44]
Germanyschwerer Stein10.29622heavy stone
leichter Stein5.14811light stone
Danzig (Gdańsk) [44]
Königsberg (Kaliningrad) [44]
Poland
Russia
großer Stein15.44433large stone
kleiner Stein10.29622small stone
Bremen [44] GermanyStein Flachs9.9720stone of flax
Stein Wolle und Federn4.98510stone of wool and feathers
Oldenburg [44] GermanyStein Flachs9.69220stone of flax
Stein Wolle und Federn4.84610stone of wool and feathers
Kraków [44] PolandStein10.13725
Osnabrück [44] GermanyStein4.94110
Amsterdam [44] NetherlandsSteen3.9538Before 1817
36"Metric stone" (after 1817)
Karlsruhe [44] GermanyStein5.0010
Leipzig, [44]
Weimar [45]
GermanyStein10.28722
Breslau (Wrocław) [44] PolandStein9.73224
Antwerp [44] BelgiumSteen3.7618
Prague [45] Czech RepublicKámen/Stein10.2920
Solothurn [44] SwitzerlandStein5.18410
Stockholm [45] SwedenSten13.6032(32 Skålpund)
Warsaw [45] PolandKamień10.142525 Funtów
Vilnius [45] LithuaniaKamieni14.9924040 Funtów
Vienna [45] AustriaStein11.2020

Metric stone

In the Netherlands, where the metric system was adopted in 1817, the pond (pound) was set equal to a kilogram, and the steen (stone), which had previously been 8 Amsterdam pond (3.953 kg), was redefined as being 3 kg. [43] In modern colloquial Dutch, a pond is used as an alternative for 500 grams or half a kilogram, while the ons is used for a weight of 100 grams, being 1/5 pond.

See also

Notes

  1. Per the 1959 International Yard and Pound Agreement, [2] [3] [4] [5] adopted by the United Kingdom in 1963. [6] Prior to that agreement, various minor differences existed between national standards and their conversions to the metric system.
  2. "that every Person do sell and buy by the Balance, so that the Balance be even, and the Woolls and other Merchandizes evenly weighed by the right Weight, so that the Sack of Wooll weigh no more but 26 Stones, and every Stone to weigh 14 l. and that the Beam of the Balance do not bow more to the one Part than to the other; (3) and that the Weight be according to the Standard of the Exchequer. (4) And if any Buyer do the contrary, he shall be grievously punished, as well at the Suit of the Party, as at the Suit of our Lord the King." [18]

Related Research Articles

Imperial units System of units that were implemented on 1 January 1826 in the British Empire

The imperial system of units, imperial system or imperial units is the system of units first defined in the British Weights and Measures Act 1824 and continued to be developed through a series of Weights and Measures Acts and amendments. The imperial units replaced the Winchester Standards, which were in effect from 1588 to 1825. The system came into official use across the British Empire in 1826. By the late 20th century, most nations of the former empire had officially adopted the metric system as their main system of measurement, but imperial units are still used in the United Kingdom and some other countries formerly part of the British Empire. The imperial system developed from what were first known as English units, as did the related system of United States customary units.

Metrication Conversion to a metric system of measurement

Metrication or metrification is the act or process of converting to a metric system of measurement. All over the world, nations have transitioned from their local and traditional units of measurement to the metric system. This process began in France during the 1790s and continues more than two centuries later. The metric system has not been fully adopted in all countries and sectors.

The pound or pound-mass is a unit of mass used in British imperial and United States customary systems of measurement. Various definitions have been used; the most common today is the international avoirdupois pound, which is legally defined as exactly 0.45359237 kilograms, and which is divided into 16 avoirdupois ounces. The international standard symbol for the avoirdupois pound is lb; an alternative symbol is lbm, #, and or ″̶.

Tonne Metric unit of mass equivalent to 1,000 kilograms

The tonne is a metric unit of mass equal to 1,000 kilograms. It is commonly referred to as a metric ton in the United States. It is equivalent to approximately 2,204.6 pounds; 1.102 short tons (US), and 0.984 long tons (UK). The official SI unit is the megagram, a less common way to express the same mass.

United States customary units System of units of measurement commonly used in the United States

United States customary units are a system of measurements commonly used in the United States since it was formalized in 1832. The United States customary system developed from English units which were in use in the British Empire before the U.S. became an independent country. The United Kingdom's system of measures was overhauled in 1824 to create the imperial system, which was officially adopted in 1826, changing the definitions of some of its units. Subsequently, while many U.S. units are essentially similar to their imperial counterparts, there are significant differences between the systems.

Troy weight System of units of mass

Troy weight is a system of units of mass that originated in 15th-century England, and is primarily used in the precious metals industry. The Troy weights are the grain, the pennyweight, the troy ounce, and the troy pound. The troy grain is equal to the grain-unit of the avoirdupois system, the troy ounce is heavier than the avoirdupois ounce, yet the troy pound is lighter than the avoirdupois pound.

The quintal or centner is a historical unit of mass in many countries which is usually defined as 100 base units, such as pounds or kilograms. It is a traditional unit of weight in France, Portugal, and Spain and their former colonies. It is commonly used for grain prices in wholesale markets in India, where 1 quintal = 100 kg or 105g.

Avoirdupois system System of weights (more properly, mass) based on a pound of 16 ounces

The avoirdupois system is a measurement system of weights which uses pounds and ounces as units. It was first commonly used in the 13th century AD and was updated in 1959.

Long ton, also known as the imperial ton or displacement ton, is the name for the unit called the "ton" in the avoirdupois system of weights or Imperial system of measurements. It was standardised in the thirteenth century. It is used in the United Kingdom and several other Commonwealth of Nations countries alongside the mass-based metric tonne defined in 1799, as well as in the United States for bulk commodities.

Bushel

A bushel is an imperial and US customary unit of volume based upon an earlier measure of dry capacity. The old bushel is equal to 2 kennings (obsolete), 4 pecks, or 8 dry gallons, and was used mostly for agricultural products, such as wheat. In modern usage, the volume is nominal, with bushels denoting a mass defined differently for each commodity.

Hundredweight Unit of weight or mass, with differing values

The hundredweight, formerly also known as the centum weight or quintal, is a British imperial and US customary unit of weight or mass. Its value differs between the US and British imperial systems. The two values are distinguished in American English as the "short" and "long" hundredweight and in British English as the "cental" and the "imperial hundredweight".

Apothecaries system Historical system of mass and volume units used by physicians and apothecaries

The apothecaries' system, or apothecaries' weights and measures, is a historical system of mass and volume units that were used by physicians and apothecaries for medical recipes and also sometimes by scientists. The English version of the system is closely related to the English troy system of weights, the pound and grain being exactly the same in both. It divides a pound into 12 ounces, an ounce into 8 drachms, and a drachm into 3 scruples of 20 grains each. This exact form of the system was used in the United Kingdom; in some of its former colonies, it survived well into the 20th century. The apothecaries' system of measures is a similar system of volume units based on the fluid ounce. For a long time, medical recipes were written in Latin, often using special symbols to denote weights and measures.

English units are the units of measurement used in England up to 1826, which evolved as a combination of the Anglo-Saxon and Roman systems of units. Various standards have applied to English units at different times, in different places, and for different applications.

Metrication in the United Kingdom Adoption of the metric system of measurements in the United Kingdom

Metrication in the United Kingdom, the process of introducing the metric system of measurement in place of imperial units, has made steady progress since the mid–20th century but today remains equivocal and varies by context. Most of government, industry and commerce use metric units, but imperial units are officially used to specify journey distances, vehicle speeds and the sizes of returnable milk containers, beer and cider glasses. Imperial units are also often used to describe body measurements and vehicle fuel economy. In schools metric units are taught and used as the norm. Imperial units that remain in common usage in the UK are also taught.

European units of measurement directives

As of 2009, the European Union had issued two units of measurement directives: In 1971 it issued Directive 71/354/EEC which required EU member states to standardise on the International System of Units (SI) rather than use a variety of CGS and MKS units then in use. The second, which replaced the first, was Directive 80/181/EEC made in 1979 and amended in 1984, 1989, 2000 and 2009. It issued a number of derogations to the United Kingdom and Ireland based on the former directive.

The wey or weight was an English unit of weight and dry volume by at least 900 AD, when it begins to be mentioned in surviving legal codes.

Before the introduction of the Metric system, one may divide the history of Indian systems of measurement into three main periods: the pre-Akbar's period, the period of the Akbar system, and the British colonial period.

The last was a Dutch unit of mass, volume, and number, and a large English unit of weight, mass, volume, and number. It referred to standardized amounts of ships' lading and varied by commodity and over time.

Imperial and US customary measurement systems

The imperial and US customary measurement systems are both derived from an earlier English system of measurement which in turn can be traced back to Ancient Roman units of measurement, and Carolingian and Saxon units of measure.

The sack was an English unit of weight or mass used for coal and wool. It has also been used for other commodities by weight, commodities by volume, and for both weight and volume in the United States.

References

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