Obsolete Finnish units of measurement

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The obsolete Finnish units of measurement consist mostly of a variety of units traditionally used in Finland that are similar to those that were traditionally used in other countries and are still used in the United Kingdom (imperial units) and the United States (United States customary units).

Very few of these units are sometimes still used in everyday speech and even when buying and measuring things as shorthand for similar amounts in the metric system. For example, kappa (sometimes called isokappa) is still used at markets to measure exactly 5 liters of potatoes. When ordering firewood, some customers (and even dealers) use syli to refer to a cubic meter, but some old people use the term to refer to various much larger amounts of firewood.

The Finnish obsolete units of measurement were derived from natural actions or objects such body parts, later standardised for the purpose of commerce. Some Swedish and, later, Russian, units were also used.

The measurements were first standardized by law in 1665 and were revised in 1735. Before this, measurements often varied between towns. The king's bailiff in the town of Porvoo, for example, used two sets of measures: a big one for collecting tax in kind from the populace and a smaller set to remit the assets to the king, keeping the difference for himself. However, nowadays the proverb mitata Porvoon mitalla (to measure in Porvoo units) has a positive meaning of measuring in excess or generously.

Certain units were standardized to the metric system in 1861, and Finland fully converted to the metric system in 1880.

Length[edit]

Table of length units
Unit Relative
value
Metric
value
Imperial
value
Notes
linja 1144 ~2.06 mm ~0.081 in The width of a barleycorn. Cf. barleycorn (unit).
tuuma 112 ~24.74 mm ~0.97 in The width of a thumb. Metrinen tuuma = 25 mm.
vaaksa 12 ~148.44 mm ~5.84 in The distance between the tips of little finger and thumb, when the fingers are fully extended. Today defined as 150 mm. Cf. span (unit).
jalka 1 ~296.9 mm ~11.68 in The length of a human foot. Cf. foot (unit).
kyynärä 2 ~593.76 mm ~1.94 ft The distance from the elbow to the fingertips. The usual unit on measuring everyday lengths. Metrinen kyynärä = 500 mm. Cf. cubit.
syli 6 ~1.8 m ~5.9 ft Fathom; the distance between the fingertips of both hands when the arms are raised horizontally to the sides. In maritime contexts, syli is 11,000 of nautical mile (1.852 m).
vakomitta 120 ~213.6 m ~700.78 ft The furrow's length on field. Cf. furlong.
virsta 600 ~1,068.84 m ~0.66 mi 2,672 m (Swedish) 1,068.84 m (Finnish). Related to the Russian verst.
peninkulma (old) 3,000 ~5,344.2 m ~3.32 mi Before year 1600 5 virsta; after 1600 10 virsta. The distance a barking dog can be heard in still air.
peninkulma (new) 6,000 ~10.6884 km ~6.64 mi Before year 1600 5 virsta; after 1600 10 virsta. The distance a barking dog can be heard in still air.
päivämatka 12,000 ~20 km ~12.42 mi The distance of one day's travel.

Maritime units[edit]

  • meripeninkulma – 1,852 m. Same as nautical mile. One angular minute at equator.
  • kaapelinmitta – 185.2 m. 110 of a nautical mile.
  • syli – 1.852 m. 11,000 of a nautical mile. Seldom used.
  • solmu – nautical miles per hour. Speed unit.

Obsolete:

  • merisekunti* – 30.8666 m. 160 of nautical mile
  • meritertia* – 0.51444 m. 13,600 of nautical mile

Area[edit]

Table of area units
Unit Relative
value
Metric
value
Imperial
value
Notes
kannunala ~88.15 m2 ~818.91 sq ft 1,000 square jalka.
kapanala ~154 m2 ~1,430.66 sq ft (158.96 sq yd) 132 of tynnyrinala. The area (of field) that could be sown with one bushel of grain.
panninala ~2,464 m2 ~22,890.56 aq ft (2,543.4 sq yd) 16 kapanala, 12 of tynnyrinala. The area (of field) that could be sown with one panni of grain.
tynnyrinala ~4,936.5 m2 ~45,860.09 sq ft (5,095.565 sq yd) The area (of field) that could be sown with one barrel of grain.
äyrityisenmaa 1 3,926 square kyynärä. The area which grows grain worth of one äyrityinen for taxation.
äyrinmaa 3 11,777 square kyynärä. The area which grows grain worth of one äyri for taxation.
penninginmaa 125 490,790 square kyynärä. The area which grows grain worth of one penninki for taxation.

Volume[edit]

Dry measure[edit]

Table of volume (dry) units
Unit Relative
value
Metric
value
Imperial
value
Notes
jumpru 116 ~81.8 ml ~2.9 fl. oz From Swedish jungfru, virgin. Also for liquids.
kortteli 14 ~327.15 ml ~11.51 fl. oz. Used for both length (14.845 cm, same as vaaksa) and volume. Name derives from Swedish kvartdel, meaning "quarter". As unit of length 14 of kyynärä.
tuoppi 1 ~1.3274 L ~46.72 fl. oz (2.336 pt) Literally tankard. Also for liquids.
kannu 2 ~2.6172 L ~4.61 pt Lit. "jug". Also called pikkukappa (exactly 2.5 L).
kappa 4 ~5.4961 L 9.67 pt (4.84 qt) Still in use (as exactly 5 liters) as kappa or isokappa at market places to measure potatoes.
nelikko 32 ~43.986 L 38.72 qt (9.68 gal.) Used for dry measure.
panni 64 ~87.96 L 19.36 gal. Used for dry measure.
tynnyri 128 ~175 L 38.49 gal. Barrel for dry measure.
lästi 1,536 ~2,110 L 464.14 gal. Used for dry measure.

Liquid measure[edit]

Table of volume (liquid) units
Unit Relative
value
Metric
value
Imperial
value
Notes
jumpru 116 ~81.8 ml From Swedish jungfru, virgin.
kortteli 14 ~327.15 ml Used for both length (14.845 cm, same as vaaksa) and volume. Name derives from Swedish kvartdel, meaning "quarter". As unit of length 14 of kyynärä.
tuoppi 1 ~1.3274 L Literally tankard. Used for liquids.
kannu 2 ~2.6172 L Also called pikkukappa (exactly 2.5 L).
kappa 4 ~5.4961 L Also for dry substances.
ankkuri 30 ~39.26 L Used for liquid measure.
tynnyri 96 ~125.6 L Barrel for liquid measure.
lästi 1,152 ~1,507 L Used for liquid measure.

Mass[edit]

Table of mass units
Unit Relative
value
Metric
value
Imperial
value
Notes
luoti 116 ~13.95 g The weight of a musket ball.
unssi 18 ~27.9 g
markka 1 ~213.8 g Name of the Finnish monetary unit 1861–2002
naula 2 ~425.6 g metrinen naula = 500 g; the Imperial pound may be translated naula although pauna is exact
leiviskä 40 ~8.5004 kg metrinen leiviskä = 10 kg
sentneri 200 ~42.56 kg 1 Senttaali = 200 metrinen naula = 100 kg.
kippunta 800 ~170 kg

Miscellaneous[edit]

  • askel (pace) – Roughly one meter for an adult male—a rough but convenient way to measure distances while walking.
  • hehto – hectoliter, 100 liters, potatoes
  • kivenheitto (Throw of a rock) – 100 kyynärä (approx 50 m). Today to describe something to be very near.
  • poronkusema – (approximately 7.5 km). A Sami measurement of distance; the distance a reindeer can travel before needing to stop to urinate. Today used to describe something that is at a very obscure distance away.
  • Poronkusemaa kuukaudessa – (poronkusemas per month) similar to furlongs per fortnight, about 2.9 mm/s
  • tusina – 12
  • toltti – 12 (lumber)
  • tiu – 20 (eggs)
  • puntti – 20 (matchboxes)
  • kerpo – 31 (lampreys; 30 as a bunch and one for tying)
  • krossi – 144 (pencils)
  • kiihtelys – 40 (squirrel pelts)
  • riisi – 500 (paper sheets)
  • tonni – 1,000 (usually refers to 1,000 kg, but can refer also anything of 1,000, especially money)
  • motti – 1 m3 (firewood or waste paper)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]