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A dozen (common abbreviated doz or dz) is a grouping of twelve. The dozen may be one of the earliest primitive groupings, perhaps because there are approximately a dozen cycles of the moon or months in a cycle of the sun or year. Twelve is convenient because it has more divisors than other small numbers: 12 = 2 × 6 = 3 × 4 = 1 × 12. The use of twelve as a base number, known as the duodecimal system (also as dozenal), probably originated in Mesopotamia (see also sexagesimal). This could come from counting on one's fingers by counting each finger bone with one's thumb. Using this method, one hand can count to twelve, and two hands can count to 144. Twelve dozen (122 = 144, the duodecimal 100) are known as a gross; and twelve gross (123 = 1,728, the duodecimal 1,000) are called a great gross, a term most often used when shipping or buying items in bulk. A great hundred, also known as a small gross, is 120 or ten dozen. A baker's dozen, also known as big, or long dozen, is 13.
The English word dozen comes from the old form douzaine, a French word meaning "a group of twelve" ("Assemblage de choses de même nature au nombre de douze" — (translation: A group of twelve things of the same nature as defined in the eighth edition of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française). This French word is a derivation from the cardinal number douze ("twelve", from Latin duodĕcim) and the collective suffix -aine (from Latin -ēna), a suffix also used to form other words with similar meanings such as quinzaine (a group of fifteen), vingtaine (a group of twenty), centaine (a group of one hundred), etc. These French words have synonymous cognates in Spanish: docena, quincena, veintena, centena, etc. English dozen, French douzaine, German Dutzend, Dutch dozijn, Italian dozzina and Spanish docena, are also used as indefinite quantifiers to mean "about twelve" or "many" (as in "a dozen times", "dozens of people").
A confusion may arise with the Anglo-Norman dizeyne (French dixaine or dizaine) a tithing, or group of ten households — dating from the late Anglo-Saxon system of grouping households into tens and hundreds for the purposes of law, order and mutual surety (see Tithing). In some texts this 'dizeyne' may be rendered as 'dozen'.[page needed]
A baker's dozen, Lucifers dozen, long dozen, or long measure is 13, one more than a standard dozen. The practice of baking 13 items for an intended dozen was insurance against the items being lower than the statutory weight, or of lower than usual quality, which could cause the baker to be fined.
According to the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, by Capatin Grose, "a Baker's Dozen is Thirteen; that number of rolls being allowed to the purchaser of a dozen".
- Bartleby[dead link]
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- "meaning #4", English Dictionary, Oxford.
- Melville-Lee (1901), A History of Police in England, Methuen
- "The Baker's Dozen", The Baker's Helper 36, Clissold Publishing Company, 1921, p. 562.
- Grose, Francis (2007) . Classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue (unabridged ed.). p. 18.