Hundred (word)

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Today in English, a hundred is always taken to be equal to 100.

The word is cognate with hunderd in Old Frisian, hundrað in Old Norse, and hundert in Old German.[1]

In history[edit]

The existence of a non-decimal base in the earliest traces of the Germanic languages, is attested by the presence of words and glosses meaning that the count is in decimal (cognates to ten-count or tenty-wise), such would be expected if normal counting is not decimal, and unusual if it were. In the Gothic bible, at I Cor 15:6, there is an example of such an marginal, where 'fimf hundram' (five hundred) acquires a marginal to it being 'taihuntewjam' (teentywise). Similar words are known in most other Germanic languages.

Where this counting system is known, it is based on the long hundred of 120 in number, and a long thousand of 1200 in number. The descriptions like 'long' only appear after the small hundred of 100 in number appeared with the Christians. The word for it was twelfty. See, e.g. Zupko,[2]

Gordon's Introduction to Old Norse [3] p 293, gives number names that belong to this system. An expression cognate to 'one hundred and eighty' is translated to 200, and the cognate to 'two hundred' is translated at 240.

Goodare [4] details the use of the long hundred in Scotland in the Middle Ages, giving examples, calculations where the carry implies i C (i.e. one hundred) as 120, etc. That the general population were not alarmed to encounter such numbers suggests common enough use. Goodare gives examples of numbers like vii score, where one avoids the hundred by using extended scores.

Goodare's paper also gives an English form of the Roman numbers. This is written as if M and C were units of 1200 and 120 respectively, and a number like v C xlii (for 642). This number appears in a sum where the total implies that the carries from units over C is a column of 120, rather than 10. The year 2013 would be written as i m vi c lxxxxiii.

There is also a paper by W.H. Stevenson,[5] on 'The Long Hundred and its uses in England'. The paper discusses work of Professor Kluge of Jena, which details the long hundred among the Germanic nations, and then proceeds to fill the role of providing the missing information for English. Numbers from 10 to 20 are discussed, particularly the transition from the -lif form to the -teen forms. Likewise, the transition of the decades at 60 are discussed. Sample word use and recorded calculations then follow, the latter make sense where the hundred is reckoned at 120. The final part of the paper is given to discussing Mr Pell's reliance on fairly unbased but scholarly published research, without deep critical thinking, particularly, if the hundred means the decimal hundred, then the English numbers refer to measures 20% larger than the Latin ones.

One can avoid using hundreds by using larger intermediate units, such as in the UK, giving weights in stones and pounds, or tons and hundredweight, rather than the long count of pounds as used in the US. Such might well happen when the hundred is in the process of changing its meaning.

The reckoning by long hundreds waned when the Arabic numerals spread throughout Europe during the 14 and later centuries. The Black Death, and the arrival of Hindu-Arabic numerals lead to the replacement of the long hundred with short hundreds, but the tradition died hard.

In time[edit]

The word "hundred" followed by "hours" is used in a special way. For example, "eighteen hundred hours" can mean a period of 1800 hours (75 days), but more often it is military time terminology for the time 18:00.


  1. ^ ""hundred" definition". Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  2. ^ Zupko, Ronald Edward (1985). A dictionary of Weights and Measures of the British Isles. Philidephia: American Philosophy Society. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-87169-168-2. 
  3. ^ Gordon, E V (1957). Introduction to Old Norse. Oxford: Claredon Press. pp. 292–293. 
  4. ^ Goodare, Julian (1993). "The Long Hundred in medieval and early modern Scotland". Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 123: 395–418. 
  5. ^ Stevenson, W. H. (December 1899). "The long hundred and its use in England". Archaeological Review 4 (5): 313–317. 

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