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A dozen (commonly 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 the most divisors of any number under 18. The use of twelve as a base number, known as the duodecimal system (also as dozenal), 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) 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 a big or long dozen, is 13. Varying by country, some products are packaged or sold by the dozen, often foodstuff (a dozen eggs). Dozen may also be used to express a large number of items as in "several dozen" (ex. dozens of people came to the party).
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, Catalan dotzena, Persian dowjin "دوجین", Arabic durzen "درزن", German Dutzend, Dutch dozijn, Italian dozzina and Polish tuzin, 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, devil's dozen, long dozen, or long measure is 13, one more than a standard dozen. The broadest use of baker's dozen today is simply a group of thirteen objects (often baked goods).. The term has meant different things over the last few centuries.
In the United Kingdom when selling certain goods, bakers were obliged to sell goods by the dozen at a specific weight or quality (or a specific average weight). Bakers who sold a dozen units under the required weight could result in a hefty fine. To avoid risking a penalty, some bakers included an extra unit to be sure the minimum weight was met bringing the total to 13 units or a Baker's dozen.
In the late 16th century a baker's dozen referred to a batch made in which the customer was given a dozen and the last one constituted the baker's profit.
According to the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, by Captain Grose, "a Baker's Dozen is Thirteen; that number of rolls being allowed to the purchaser of a dozen".
Contrary to most sources, according to the 1785 Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, Anon: probably Grose, "a Baker's Dozen is Fourteen, that number of rolls being allowed to the purchaser of a dozen".
The term has also been defined in a jocular way, as "twelve of today's and one of yesterday's."
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- Bartleby, archived from the original on December 10, 2006
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- Grose, Francis (1785) . A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar tongue. p. 19.