Portuguese customary units

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The Portuguese customary units were used in Portugal, Brazil and other parts of the Portuguese Empire until the adoption of the Metric System in the 19th century.

In 1814, Portugal was the first country in the world - after France - to officially adopt a metric system. The system then adopted used the Portuguese traditional units designation instead of the original French ones. However, several dificulties prevented the implementation of the new system, and the old Portuguese costumary units continued to be used, both in Portugal and in Brazil (this meanwhile becoming an independent country in 1822).

The metric system was finally adopted by Portugal and the then Portuguese colonies in 1852, this time using the original names of the units. Brazil became the last country to use the Portuguese customary units as its official system, replacing them by the metric system only in 1862.

The length and weight standards of the Portuguese customary units were defined, at national level, in the reign of Manuel I of Portugal in 1495. The others were different from one region to the other, but were similar to those established to Lisbon.

Route units[edit]

Portuguese name English name Subdivides in Equivalence in
Léguas de 20 ao grau
Metrical equivalence
Légua de 18 ao grau League of 18 to the degree 6173 m
Légua de 20 ao grau League of 20 to the degree 3 milhas geográficas 1 5555 m
Milha geográfica Geographical mile 1/3 1851 m

Length units[edit]

Portuguese name English name Subdivides in Equivalence in Varas Metrical equivalence
Braça Fathom 2 varas 2 2,2 m
Toesa Toise 6 pés 145 1,98 m
Passo geométrico Geometrical pace 5 pés 112 1,65 m
Vara Yard 5 palmos 1 1,1 m
Côvado Cubit 3 palmos 3/5 0,66 m
Foot 12 polegadas 3/10 0,33 m
Palmo de craveira Span 8 polegadas 1/5 0,22 m
Polegada Inch 12 linhas 1/40 27,5 mm
Linha Line 12 pontos 1/480 2,29 mm
Ponto Point 1/5760 0,19 mm

Weight units[edit]

Portuguese name English name Subdivides in Equivalence in Arratéis Metrical equivalence
Tonelada Tonne 13,5 quintais 1728 793,152 kg
Quintal Hundredweight 4 arrobas 128 58,752 kg
Arroba Arroba 32 arratéis 32 14,688 kg
Arratel (1) Pound 4 quartas 1 0,459 kg
Quarta Fourth 4 onças 1/4 0,11475 kg
Onça Ounce 8 oitavas 1/16 28,6875 g
Oitava Eight 3 escrópulos 1/128 3,5859 g
Escrópulo Scruple 24 grãos 1/384 1,1953 g
Grão Grain 1/9216 0,0498 g

(1) Also referred as libra (pound).

Liquid volume units (for Lisbon)[edit]

Portuguese name English name Subdivides in Equivalence in canadas Metric equivalence
Tonel Cask 2 pipas 600 840 l
Pipa Barrel 25 almudes 300 420 l
Almude (1) 2 potes 12 16,8 l
Pote Pot 6 canadas 6 8,4 l
Canada 4 quartilhos 1 1,4 l
Quartilho Pint 212 quartilhos 1/4 0,35 l
1/2 Quartilho 1/2 Pint 214 quartilhos 1/8 0,175 l
1/4 Quartilho 1/4 Pint 1/16 0,0875 l

(1) Also known as cântaro.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Monteverde, Emilio Achilles (1861) Manual Encyclopedico para Uzo das Escolas de Instrucção Primaria, Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional.
  • (2002) Dicionário Enciclopédico Lello Universal, Porto: Lello & Irmão.
  • Barroca, M.J. (1992) «Medidas-Padrão Medievais Portuguesas», Revista da Faculdade de Letras. História, 2ªa Série, vol. 9, Porto, pp. 53–85.
  • Seabra Lopes, L. (2003) «Sistemas Legais de Medidas de Peso e Capacidade, do Condado Portucalense ao Século XVI», Portugalia, Nova Série, XXIV, Faculdade de Letras, Porto, p. 113-164.
  • Seabra Lopes, L. (2005) «A Cultura da Medição em Portugal ao Longo da História», Educação e Matemática, nº 84, Setembro-Outubro de 2005, p. 42-48.