History Hans Högman
Copyright © Hans Högman 2017-08-31

Old Swedish Units of Measurement

Introduction

Old measurements and weights can cause a great deal of problem for today’s people. If you look at probate records, old letters and documents, older literature etc you often come across these old measurements It is useful, then, to know what the equivalents are in today’s system of measurement. Older measurements often originate from relationships to different parts of the human body, such as feet, fingers, and arms etc. This means, however, that the measurements were not as exact as one might have expected. But there were certain relative relationships that normally were true. For example, a foot is generally 1/6 of a human’s height. The following measurements originate from references to the human body: Famn: The measurement from the tip of the little finger on the left hand to the right hands tip of the little finger when both arm’s is stretched out as far as possible (fathom). The English word fathom was used in the UK. Aln: The length from the elbow to the tip of the little finger (ell) Fot: The length from the heel to the tip of the big toe (foot) Tvärhand: The width across the four fingers of the hand (thumb excluded). (a hand's width) Tum: he width of the thumb (inch).  Fingerbredd: The width of a finger, normally the middle finger. According to a old tradition a man’s height corresponds to the following body measures: 1 "famn" (fathom), 3 "aln" (ells), 6 "fot" (feet), 18 "tvärhand", 72 "tum" (inches) or 90 "fingerbredd".

History

Our present system, the Metric System, originates from France. The Metric System was introduced during the French Revolution in about 1793. Napoleon established this measurement system in every country he occupied. Sweden adopted the Metric System in 1878 and over a ten-year period Sweden changed from the old measurements to the metric system. Since January 1, 1889 the metric system has been the only legal legal system for measurements in Sweden. Before 1665 we had many different local measurements in Sweden. This of course caused a great deal of problems for both tradesmen and the authorities. There could be different measurements in different parts of Sweden and the same measurement could be of different sizes. One example of the later is the Swedish distance "mil" (mile) had different length in various parts of the nation. In 1665 Sweden adopted a standard measurement system covering the whole nation. An adjustment of that system was made in 1735. A major change of the measurement system was introduced in 1855 when the decimal system was adopted. In other words, Sweden already had a decimal system when the metric system was introduced. But, all the changes of the measurement system, could not erase the old measurements in people’s minds. People still imagined the measurements in "aln" instead of meter, "kanna" instead of liter etc. They did not understand the new measurements. The new systems had no meaning to people in their day to day lives like the old measurements had provided. Even today, the old measurements are present in people’s minds. Falsifying measurements has been subject to severe penalties in Sweden. As late as the 19th century a person who falsified a measurement could be sentenced to death.

Old Swedish Measurements

Below is a listing of older measurements that were previously in common use:

Linear Measure

Mil (mile) A Swedish "mil" (Swedish mile) was in the old days = 6000 "famn" (fathoms) = 18000 "aln" (ells) = 36000 "fot" (feet) = 10.688 meters = 6.64 miles. The "mil" was divided into 4 "fjärdingsväg" (4 quarters) of 2672 meters or 4500 "aln" (ells). This "mil" was introduced in 1699 as a standard "mil" and was to represent the distance between the inns.  Before 1699 the "mil" had different lengths in different parts of Sweden. Today in the metric system: 1 "mil" = 10 kilometers = 6.2 miles. 1 mile (US & UK) = 1760 yards = 5280 feet =  1609.344 m. (1 yard = 91.44 cm). Aln (Ell) 1 "aln" = 2 "fot" (feet) = 59,38 cm. In the US and UK an ell is  = 45 inches = 114 cm. (From Old English eln, the length from elbow to finger tips.) "Aln" was abandoned as a measurement in Sweden when the metric system was introduced in 1878. Fjärdingsväg 1 "fjärdingsväg" = 1/4 old Swedish "mil" = 4500 "aln" (ells) = 2672 meters = 1.66 miles. Steg (Step) 1 "steg" = 1/2 "famn" (fathom) = 90 cm. (1 yard = 91.44 cm). Famn (Fathom) 1 " famn" = 6 "fot" (Sw. feet) = 3 "aln" (Sw. ells) = 1.78 m. A fathom is also a old measure of the depth of water used in navigating ships and boats: in English a unit of length equal to 1.83 m. (The word fathom is from  the old English fæthm, outstretched arms.) Kabellängd (Cable length) 1 " kabellängd" = 1/10 nautical mile = 185.2 meters. In the beginning 1 "kabellängd" = 100 "famn" = 178 meters. A cable length was mainly used in nautical contexts. 1 nautical mile = 1852 meters. In the UK & US 1 cable length = 120 fathoms = 219.6 meters. Stenkast (A stone's throw) This measurement was the distance you could throw a medium sized stone. Normally that meant about 50 "steg" (steps), 40 - 50 meters. Tvärhand (Hand) 1 "tvärhand" = 4 "tum" (inches) = 8 - 10 cm. "Tvärhand" was a common measure to give the thickness of the ice on a frozen lake. In the UK there were unit called hand. This unit was originally defined as the width of the man's hand from the little finger to the thumb. A statute of King Henry VIII of England established the hand at 4 inches. Fot (Foot) 1 "fot" = 2 "kvarter" = 12 "tum" (verktum) = 1/2 "aln" = 29.69 cm. In the USA and UK 1 foot = 30.48 cm. Tum (inches) 1 "tum" (verkstum) was according to the 1665 rules 2.47 cm; 1 "tum" = 1/24 "aln" = 1/12 "fot" = 1/6 "kvarter" = 2.47 cm. In the decimalsystem of 1855 1 "tum" =  2.969 cm (1/10 "fot"). (today 1 "tum" = 1 inch =  2.54 cm) Kvarter/Qvarter 1 " kvarter" = 1/4 "aln" = 6 "tum" (verktum) = 14.84 cm. Fingerbredd 1 "fingerbredd" = 1.85 cm In the US and UK there are as well; 1 Chain = 20.12 meters and 1 furlong = 1/8 mile = 201 meters.

Cubic Measure (Dry items)

Tunna (Barrel) 1 "tunna" = 2 "spann" = 8 "fjärding" = 32 "kappar" = 56 "kannor" (pitchers) = 146.6 liters (33.28 US gallons) leveled measure (struket mått) or 164.9 liters (43.5 US gallons) full (good) measure (fast mått or med råge). In the US 1 barrel = 115.6 liters = 7056 cubic inches. Fjärding 1 "fjärding" = 4 "kappar" = 7 "kannor" (pitchers) = 18.32 liters  = 4.159 US gallons Kappe 1 "kappe" = 1.75 "kannor" (pitchers) = 4.58 liters  = 4.16 US quart. It is one "kappe" but two "kappar" (pl.). Kanna (pitcher) 1 "kanna" (pitcher) = 2.617 liters  = 2.376 US quart. It is one "kanna" but two "kannor" (pl.). Skäppa (Bushel) "Skäppa" is a very old measurement that was abandoned in Sweden in 1735. The size of a "skäppa" could be different in different parts of Sweden. In the province of Småland a "skäppa" was 1/6 of a "tunna" (barrel) but in the province of Bohuslän it was only 1/4 of a "tunna" (36.6 liters) and in the province of Västergötland it was 1/5 of a "tunna". In the US a bushel is 35.24 liters = 4 US pecks (1 US peck = 537.6 cubic inches). In the UK a bushel is 36.37 liters = 8 UK gallons = 4 UK pecks (1 UK peck = 554.8 cubic inches).

Cubic Measure (Wet items)

Tunna (Barrel) 1 "tunna" = 4 "fjärding" = 48 "kannor" (pitcher) = 125.6 liters = 33.2 US gallons Ankare (Anker) 1 "ankare" = 15 "kannor" (pitchers) = 39.25 liter = 10.37 US gallons.. This was a measure that was used as a measurement of liquor, wine and beer. Fjärding 1 "fjärding" = 12 "kannor" (pitcher) = 31 liter = 8.19 US gallons. Kanna (Pitcher) 1 "kanna" = 2 stop (quart) = 2.6 liters = 87.9 US oz. It is one "kanna" but two "kannor" (pl.). Stop (Quart) 1 "stop" = 4 "kvarter" = 1.3 liter 1 US quart = 1/4 US gallon = 32 ounces = 0.946 liter. 1 UK quart = 1.136 liters. (1 UK pint = 56,8 cl and 1 US pint = 47.2 cl. 1 UK flask ounce = 2.84 cl and 1 US fl oz = 2.957 cl). Kvarter 1 "kvarter" = 4 "jungfru" = 1/8 "kanna" = 1/4 "stop" = 32.7 cl Jungfru 1 "jungfru" = 1/4 "kvarter" = 1/32 "kanna" = 8.2 cl. "Jungfru" was used as a measurement of liquor. Fat 1 "fat" (barrel) = 60 "kannor" = 157 liters = 41.5 US gallons. Today, for petroleum products, the measure "fat" is used for 1 US barrel = 42 US gallons = 159 l. (1 US gallon = 3.785 liters and 1 UK gallon = 4.546 liters).

Weight Measure (Mass)

Skeppspund  1 "skeppspund" = 20 "Lispund" = 400 "skålpund" = 170 kg = 374.8 pounds Lispund 1 "lispund" = 1/20 "skeppspund" = 20 "skålpund" = 8.5 kg = 18.7 pounds Skålpund 1 "skålpund" = 32 "lod" = 128 "Qvintin" = 8848 "ass" = 425 gram = 0.94 pounds Lod 1 "lod" = 1/32 "skålpund" = 4 "qvintin" = 13.3 gram Uns (Ounce) 1 "uns" = 2 "lod" = 548 "ass" = 26.3 gram silver or 27.9 gram gold. In the USA and UK 1 ounce (oz) = 28.35 g. 1 pound (UK & US) = 16 ounce = 453.6 gram. Mark 1 "mark" = 1/2 skeppspund = 212,5 g = 74.96 oz. In the UK there are as well; 1 stone = 6.31 kg and 1 quarter = 12.7 kg.

Area Measure

The area measure was mainly a measure of the area a given amount of seed could cover. Measure for sowing: Tunnland (Acre) 1 "tunnland" = 2 "spannland" = 8 "fjärdringsland" = 32 "kappeland" = 56 "kannland" = 4936.6 square meters = 0.494 hectare = 1.21 acre. ("Tunna" means barrel in English) 1 Acre (US & UK) = 4840 Square yards = 4046.86 square meters = 0.4047 hectare. Spannland 1 "spannland" = 1/2 "tunnland" = 2468.3 square meters. ("Spann" means bucket in English) Kappeland 1 "kappeland" 1/32 "tunnland" = 154.3 square meters = 0.61 acre Kannland 1 "kannland" = 1/56 "tunnland" = 88.15 square meters = 105.4 square yards The Money measures: Some area measures was based on the value of the land. The area of these medieval measures corresponded to the value of the coin that named the area measure. For example coins like; daler, mark, öre and penningar. Dalerland 1 dalerland = 4 markland = 32 tunnland = 15.797 hectare Markland 1 markland = 8 öresland = 24 örtugland = 192 penningland = 3.9493 hectare  Öresland 1 öresland = 1 tunnland = 3 örtugland = 24 penningland = 4936.6 square meters = 5904 square yards. 1 öresland was the same as 1 tunnland. Örtugland 1 örtugland = 1/3 tunnland = 8 penningland = 1646 square meters = 1968.6 square yards. Penningland 1 penningland = 1/24 tunnland = 206 square meters = 246.4 square yards.

Source References

1. "Med mått mätt - Svenska och utländska mått genom tiderna" av Albert Carlsson, 1993 2. Nationalencyklopedin  Top of page
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History Hans Högman
Copyright © Hans Högman 2017-08-31

Old Swedish Units of

Measurement

Introduction

Old measurements and weights can cause a great deal of problem for today’s people. If you look at probate records, old letters and documents, older literature etc you often come across these old measurements It is useful, then, to know what the equivalents are in today’s system of measurement. Older measurements often originate from relationships to different parts of the human body, such as feet, fingers, and arms etc. This means, however, that the measurements were not as exact as one might have expected. But there were certain relative relationships that normally were true. For example, a foot is generally 1/6 of a human’s height. The following measurements originate from references to the human body: Famn: The measurement from the tip of the little finger on the left hand to the right hands tip of the little finger when both arm’s is stretched out as far as possible (fathom). The English word fathom was used in the UK. Aln: The length from the elbow to the tip of the little finger (ell) Fot: The length from the heel to the tip of the big toe (foot) Tvärhand: The width across the four fingers of the hand (thumb excluded). (a hand's width) Tum: he width of the thumb (inch).  Fingerbredd: The width of a finger, normally the middle finger. According to a old tradition a man’s height corresponds to the following body measures: 1 "famn" (fathom), 3 "aln" (ells), 6 "fot" (feet), 18 "tvärhand", 72 "tum" (inches) or 90 "fingerbredd".

History

Our present system, the Metric System, originates from France. The Metric System was introduced during the French Revolution in about 1793. Napoleon established this measurement system in every country he occupied. Sweden adopted the Metric System in 1878 and over a ten-year period Sweden changed from the old measurements to the metric system. Since January 1, 1889 the metric system has been the only legal legal system for measurements in Sweden. Before 1665 we had many different local measurements in Sweden. This of course caused a great deal of problems for both tradesmen and the authorities. There could be different measurements in different parts of Sweden and the same measurement could be of different sizes. One example of the later is the Swedish distance "mil" (mile) had different length in various parts of the nation. In 1665 Sweden adopted a standard measurement system covering the whole nation. An adjustment of that system was made in 1735. A major change of the measurement system was introduced in 1855 when the decimal system was adopted. In other words, Sweden already had a decimal system when the metric system was introduced. But, all the changes of the measurement system, could not erase the old measurements in people’s minds. People still imagined the measurements in "aln" instead of meter, "kanna" instead of liter etc. They did not understand the new measurements. The new systems had no meaning to people in their day to day lives like the old measurements had provided. Even today, the old measurements are present in people’s minds. Falsifying measurements has been subject to severe penalties in Sweden. As late as the 19th century a person who falsified a measurement could be sentenced to death.

Old Swedish Measurements

Below is a listing of older measurements that were previously in common use:

Linear Measure

Mil (mile) A Swedish "mil" (Swedish mile) was in the old days = 6000 "famn" (fathoms) = 18000 "aln" (ells) = 36000 "fot" (feet) = 10.688 meters = 6.64 miles. The "mil" was divided into 4 "fjärdingsväg" (4 quarters) of 2672 meters or 4500 "aln" (ells). This "mil" was introduced in 1699 as a standard "mil" and was to represent the distance between the inns.  Before 1699 the "mil" had different lengths in different parts of Sweden. Today in the metric system: 1 "mil" = 10 kilometers = 6.2 miles. 1 mile (US & UK) = 1760 yards = 5280 feet =  1609.344 m. (1 yard = 91.44 cm). Aln (Ell) 1 "aln" = 2 "fot" (feet) = 59,38 cm. In the US and UK an ell is  = 45 inches = 114 cm. (From Old English eln, the length from elbow to finger tips.) "Aln" was abandoned as a measurement in Sweden when the metric system was introduced in 1878. Fjärdingsväg 1 "fjärdingsväg" = 1/4 old Swedish "mil" = 4500 "aln" (ells) = 2672 meters = 1.66 miles. Steg (Step) 1 "steg" = 1/2 "famn" (fathom) = 90 cm. (1 yard = 91.44 cm). Famn (Fathom) 1 " famn" = 6 "fot" (Sw. feet) = 3 "aln" (Sw. ells) = 1.78 m. A fathom is also a old measure of the depth of water used in navigating ships and boats: in English a unit of length equal to 1.83 m. (The word fathom is from  the old English fæthm, outstretched arms.) Kabellängd (Cable length) 1 " kabellängd" = 1/10 nautical mile = 185.2 meters. In the beginning 1 "kabellängd" = 100 "famn" = 178 meters. A cable length was mainly used in nautical contexts. 1 nautical mile = 1852 meters. In the UK & US 1 cable length = 120 fathoms = 219.6 meters. Stenkast (A stone's throw) This measurement was the distance you could throw a medium sized stone. Normally that meant about 50 "steg" (steps), 40 - 50 meters. Tvärhand (Hand) 1 "tvärhand" = 4 "tum" (inches) = 8 - 10 cm. "Tvärhand" was a common measure to give the thickness of the ice on a frozen lake. In the UK there were unit called hand. This unit was originally defined as the width of the man's hand from the little finger to the thumb. A statute of King Henry VIII of England established the hand at 4 inches. Fot (Foot) 1 "fot" = 2 "kvarter" = 12 "tum" (verktum) = 1/2 "aln" = 29.69 cm. In the USA and UK 1 foot = 30.48 cm. Tum (inches) 1 "tum" (verkstum) was according to the 1665 rules 2.47 cm; 1 "tum" = 1/24 "aln" = 1/12 "fot" = 1/6 "kvarter" = 2.47 cm. In the decimalsystem of 1855 1 "tum" =  2.969 cm (1/10 "fot"). (today 1 "tum" = 1 inch =  2.54 cm) Kvarter/Qvarter 1 " kvarter" = 1/4 "aln" = 6 "tum" (verktum) = 14.84 cm. Fingerbredd 1 "fingerbredd" = 1.85 cm In the US and UK there are as well; 1 Chain = 20.12 meters and 1 furlong = 1/8 mile = 201 meters.

Cubic Measure (Dry items)

Tunna (Barrel) 1 "tunna" = 2 "spann" = 8 "fjärding" = 32 "kappar" = 56 "kannor" (pitchers) = 146.6 liters (33.28 US gallons) leveled measure (struket mått) or 164.9 liters (43.5 US gallons) full (good) measure (fast mått or med råge). In the US 1 barrel = 115.6 liters = 7056 cubic inches. Fjärding 1 "fjärding" = 4 "kappar" = 7 "kannor" (pitchers) = 18.32 liters  = 4.159 US gallons Kappe 1 "kappe" = 1.75 "kannor" (pitchers) = 4.58 liters  = 4.16 US quart. It is one "kappe" but two "kappar" (pl.). Kanna (pitcher) 1 "kanna" (pitcher) = 2.617 liters  = 2.376 US quart. It is one "kanna" but two "kannor" (pl.). Skäppa (Bushel) "Skäppa" is a very old measurement that was abandoned in Sweden in 1735. The size of a "skäppa" could be different in different parts of Sweden. In the province of Småland a "skäppa" was 1/6 of a "tunna" (barrel) but in the province of Bohuslän it was only 1/4 of a "tunna" (36.6 liters) and in the province of Västergötland it was 1/5 of a "tunna". In the US a bushel is 35.24 liters = 4 US pecks (1 US peck = 537.6 cubic inches). In the UK a bushel is 36.37 liters = 8 UK gallons = 4 UK pecks (1 UK peck = 554.8 cubic inches).

Cubic Measure (Wet items)

Tunna (Barrel) 1 "tunna" = 4 "fjärding" = 48 "kannor" (pitcher) = 125.6 liters = 33.2 US gallons Ankare (Anker) 1 "ankare" = 15 "kannor" (pitchers) = 39.25 liter = 10.37 US gallons.. This was a measure that was used as a measurement of liquor, wine and beer. Fjärding 1 "fjärding" = 12 "kannor" (pitcher) = 31 liter = 8.19 US gallons. Kanna (Pitcher) 1 "kanna" = 2 stop (quart) = 2.6 liters = 87.9 US oz. It is one "kanna" but two "kannor" (pl.). Stop (Quart) 1 "stop" = 4 "kvarter" = 1.3 liter 1 US quart = 1/4 US gallon = 32 ounces = 0.946 liter. 1 UK quart = 1.136 liters. (1 UK pint = 56,8 cl and 1 US pint = 47.2 cl. 1 UK flask ounce = 2.84 cl and 1 US fl oz = 2.957 cl). Kvarter 1 "kvarter" = 4 "jungfru" = 1/8 "kanna" = 1/4 "stop" = 32.7 cl Jungfru 1 "jungfru" = 1/4 "kvarter" = 1/32 "kanna" = 8.2 cl. "Jungfru" was used as a measurement of liquor. Fat 1 "fat" (barrel) = 60 "kannor" = 157 liters = 41.5 US gallons. Today, for petroleum products, the measure "fat" is used for 1 US barrel = 42 US gallons = 159 l. (1 US gallon = 3.785 liters and 1 UK gallon = 4.546 liters).

Weight Measure (Mass)

Skeppspund  1 "skeppspund" = 20 "Lispund" = 400 "skålpund" = 170 kg = 374.8 pounds Lispund 1 "lispund" = 1/20 "skeppspund" = 20 "skålpund" = 8.5 kg = 18.7 pounds Skålpund 1 "skålpund" = 32 "lod" = 128 "Qvintin" = 8848 "ass" = 425 gram = 0.94 pounds Lod 1 "lod" = 1/32 "skålpund" = 4 "qvintin" = 13.3 gram Uns (Ounce) 1 "uns" = 2 "lod" = 548 "ass" = 26.3 gram silver or 27.9 gram gold. In the USA and UK 1 ounce (oz) = 28.35 g. 1 pound (UK & US) = 16 ounce = 453.6 gram. Mark 1 "mark" = 1/2 skeppspund = 212,5 g = 74.96 oz. In the UK there are as well; 1 stone = 6.31 kg and 1 quarter = 12.7 kg.

Area Measure

The area measure was mainly a measure of the area a given amount of seed could cover. Measure for sowing: Tunnland (Acre) 1 "tunnland" = 2 "spannland" = 8 "fjärdringsland" = 32 "kappeland" = 56 "kannland" = 4936.6 square meters = 0.494 hectare = 1.21 acre. ("Tunna" means barrel in English) 1 Acre (US & UK) = 4840 Square yards = 4046.86 square meters = 0.4047 hectare. Spannland 1 "spannland" = 1/2 "tunnland" = 2468.3 square meters. ("Spann" means bucket in English) Kappeland 1 "kappeland" 1/32 "tunnland" = 154.3 square meters = 0.61 acre Kannland 1 "kannland" = 1/56 "tunnland" = 88.15 square meters = 105.4 square yards The Money measures: Some area measures was based on the value of the land. The area of these medieval measures corresponded to the value of the coin that named the area measure. For example coins like; daler, mark, öre and penningar. Dalerland 1 dalerland = 4 markland = 32 tunnland = 15.797 hectare Markland 1 markland = 8 öresland = 24 örtugland = 192 penningland = 3.9493 hectare  Öresland 1 öresland = 1 tunnland = 3 örtugland = 24 penningland = 4936.6 square meters = 5904 square yards. 1 öresland was the same as 1 tunnland. Örtugland 1 örtugland = 1/3 tunnland = 8 penningland = 1646 square meters = 1968.6 square yards. Penningland 1 penningland = 1/24 tunnland = 206 square meters = 246.4 square yards.

Source References

1. "Med mått mätt - Svenska och utländska mått genom tiderna" av Albert Carlsson, 1993 2. Nationalencyklopedin  Top of page