Dram (unit)

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For the related unit of currency, see Greek drachma.
For the American hip hop artist, see D.R.A.M.

The dram (alternative British spelling drachm; apothecary symbol ʒ or ℨ; abbreviated dr)[1][2]:C-6–C-7[3] was originally both a coin and a weight in ancient Greece.[4] It refers to a unit of mass in the avoirdupois system, and both a unit of mass and a unit of volume in the apothecaries' system.[2] The unit of volume is more correctly called a fluid dram, fluid drachm, fluidram or fluidrachm (abbreviated fl dr, ƒ 3, or ).[1][2]:C-17[3][5][6][7]

Ancient unit of mass[edit]

A coin weighing one drachma is known as a stater, drachm, or drachma. The Ottoman dirhem was based on the Sassanian drachm, which was itself based on the Roman dram/drachm.

Modern unit of mass[edit]

In the avoirdupois system, the dram is the mass of 1256 pound or 116 ounce.[2]:C-6 The dram weighs 87532 grains,[2]:C-6 or exactly 1.7718451953125 grams.[2]:C-14

In the apothecaries' system, which was widely used in the United States until the middle of the 20th century,[11] the dram is the mass of 196 pounds apothecaries (lb ap), or 18 ounces apothecaries (oz ap or ℥)[2]:C-7 (the pound apothecaries and ounce apothecaries are equal to the troy pound (lb t), and troy ounce (oz t), respectively).[2]:C-6–C-7 The dram apothecaries is equal to scruples (s ap or ℈) or 60 grains (gr),[2]:C-7 or exactly 3.8879346 grams.[2]:C-14

"Dram" is also used as a measure of the powder charge in a shotgun shell, representing the equivalent of black powder in drams avoirdupois.[12]

Unit of volume[edit]

A 'wee dram' being added to flavour the haggis at a Burns Supper

The fluid dram is defined as 18 of a fluid ounce,[2]:C-5,C-7 and is exactly equal to:

  • 3.6966911953125 ml in the US customary system [3785.411784 ÷ 1024][2]:C-5,C-12
  • 3.5516328125 ml in the Imperial system [4546.09 ÷ (160 × 8)][2]:C-7[13]

A teaspoonful has been considered equal to one fluid dram for medical prescriptions.[14] However, by 1876 the teaspoon had grown considerably larger than it was previously, measuring 80–85 minims.[15] As there are 60 minims in a fluid dram,[2]:C-5,C-7 using this equivalent for the dosage of medicine was no longer suitable.[15] Today's teaspoon is equivalent to approximately 1 13 US fluid drams,[2]:C-18 or 80 US minims.[2]:C-5

Dram is used informally to mean a small amount of spirituous liquor, especially Scotch whisky.[4] The unit is referenced by the phrase dram shop, the U.S. legal term for an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages.[16]

In popular culture[edit]

The line "Where'd you get your whiskey, where'd you get your dram?" appears in some versions of the traditional pre-Civil War American song "Cindy." [17] In Monty Python's song entitled The Bruces' Philosophers Song there is the following line: "Hobbes was fond of his dram". In the old-time music tradition of the United States, there is a tune entitled "Give the Fiddler a Dram". [18][19]

In the episode "Double Indecency" of the TV series Archer the character Cheryl/Carol was carrying around 10 drams of Vole's blood and even offered to pay for a taxi ride with it.


  1. ^ a b Simpson, John A.; Weiner, Edmund S.C., eds. (1989). "drachm, n.". Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-861186-8. OCLC 50959346. Retrieved 2 July 2012. Spelt drachm or dram.  Earlier version first published in New English Dictionary, 1897.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p National Institute of Standards and Technology (October 2011). Butcher, Tina; Cook, Steve; Crown, Linda et al. eds. "Appendix C – General Tables of Units of Measurement" (PDF). Specifications, Tolerances, and Other Technical Requirements for Weighing and Measuring Devices. NIST Handbook. 44 (2012 ed.). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, Technology Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology. ISSN 0271-4027. OCLC OCLC 58927093. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  3. ^ a b Boyer, Mary Jo (2009). "UNIT 2 Measurement Systems: The Apothecary System". Math for Nurses: A Pocket Guide to Dosage Calculation and Drug Preparation (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pp. 108–9. ISBN 978-0-7817-6335-6. OCLC 181600928. Retrieved 2 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Simpson, John A.; Weiner, Edmund S.C., eds. (1989). "dram, n.". Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-861186-8. OCLC 50959346. Retrieved 2 July 2012.  Earlier version first published in New English Dictionary, 1897.
  5. ^ Royal College of Physicians of Dublin (1850). "Weights and Measures". The Pharmacopœia of the King and Queen's College of Physicians in Ireland. Dublin: Hodges and Smith. p. xlvi. OCLC 599509441. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "fluidram". Merriam-Webster online. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster. OCLC 44475779. Retrieved 2 July 2012. Definition of FLUIDRAM: variant of fluid dram 
  7. ^ Powell, Richard; Royal College of Physicians of London (1809). "Weights, Measures, &c. [measures of liquids sect.]". The Pharmacopœia of the Royal College of Physicians of London, M. DCCC. IX (corr. and enl. 2nd ed.). London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme. p. 3. OCLC 622876101. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  8. ^ Donald J. Mastronarde (19 March 1993). Introduction to Attic Greek. University of California Press. p. 222. ISBN 978-0-520-07844-4. Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  9. ^ Smith, William (1886). DICTIONARY OF GREEK AND ROMAN ANTIQUITIES. (3rd American ed.). New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 1062. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  10. ^ Ramsay, William Wardlaw (1883). An elementary manual of Roman antiquities (7th ed.). London: Charles Griffin and Company. p. 206. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  11. ^ Judson, Lewis V. (March 1976) [October 1963]. "Appendix 8" (PDF). Weights and Measures Standards of the United States: A brief history (PDF). NBS Special Publication. 447. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Bureau of Standards. p. 35. OCLC 610190761. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  12. ^ Buzzacott, Francis H.; Boyles, Denis (3 August 2008). The Complete Sportsman's Encyclopedia. Globe Pequot. p. 271. ISBN 978-1-59921-330-9. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  13. ^ United Kingdom; Department of Trade and Industry (1995). The Units of Measurement Regulations 1995. London: HMSO. Schedule: Relevant Imperial Units, Corresponding Metric Units and Metric Equivalents. ISBN 978-0-11-053334-6. OCLC 33237616. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  14. ^ Simpson, John A.; Weiner, Edmund S.C., eds. (1989). "tea-spoon, n.". Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-861186-8. OCLC 50959346. Retrieved 2 July 2012. teaspoonful n. as much as a tea-spoon will hold; in medical prescriptions taken as equal to 1 fluid-drachm.  Earlier version first published in New English Dictionary, 1911.
  15. ^ a b Bidwell, W.H., ed. (July–December 1876). "Domestic Measurement of Medicine". The Eclectic magazine of foreign literature, science, and art. New York: Leavitt, Trow, & Co. 87: 766–7. OCLC 700637572. Retrieved 2 July 2012. 
  16. ^ Ritter, Francis D. (2000). Successful Personal Injury Investigation: Master the Techniques of Finding the Facts that Win Cases for Plaintiff Attorneys (First ed.). Oceanside, California: Diverse Publications. p. 804. 
  17. ^ Erbsen, Wayne (1993). Front Porch Songs, Jokes & Stories. Native Ground. p. 12. 
  18. ^ "The Milliner - Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes". slippery-hill.com. Retrieved 2015-09-15. 
  19. ^ Brown, John. Give the fiddler a dram. Rec. May 1939 by Herbert Halpert. Lib. of Cong. Web. 15 Sept. 2015. <http://www.loc.gov/item/afc9999005.7452>.

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