Long hundred

The long hundred, great hundred, or twelfty[1] is the "hundred" of six score (120) used in Germanic languages prior to the 15th century. The number was simply described as hundred and translated into Latin in Germanic-speaking countries as centum (Roman numeral c.), but the qualifier "long" is now added because present English uses the word "hundred" almost exclusively to refer to the number of five score (100) instead.

The long hundred was 120 but the long thousand was reckoned decimally as 10 hundreds (1200).


The word is cognate with hunderd in Old Frisian, hundrað in Old Norse, and hundert in Old German.[2]


The existence of a non-decimal base in the earliest traces of the Germanic languages is attested by the presence of glosses such as "tentywise" or "ten-count" denoting that certain numbers are to be understood as decimal. Such glosses would not be expected where decimal counting was usual. In the Gothic Bible,[3] some marginalia glosses a five hundred (fimf hundram) in the text as being understood taihuntewjam ("tentywise"). Similar words are known in most other Germanic languages. Old Norse clearly used such a system, with its words for "one hundred and eighty" meaning 200 and "two hundred" meaning 240.[4] Its use in medieval England and Scotland is documented by Stevenson[5] and Goodare, although Goodare notes that it was sometimes avoided by using numbers such as "seven score".[6] The Assize of Weights and Measures, one of England's statutes of uncertain date from c.1300, shows both the short and long hundred in competing use: the hundred of kippers is formed by six score fish and the hundred of hemp canvas and linen cloth is formed by six score ells but the hundred of pounds to be used in measuring bulk goods is five times twenty and the hundred of fresh herring is five score fish.[7] Within the original Latin text, the numeral c. is used for a value of 120: Et quodlibet c. continet vi. xx.[8]

The reckoning by long hundreds waned as Arabic numerals spread throughout Europe during and after the 14th century.


  1. Zupko, Ronald Edward (1985). A dictionary of Weights and Measures of the British Isles. Philidephia: American Philosophy Society. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-87169-168-2.
  2. ""hundred" definition". Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  3. I Cor. 15:6
  4. Gordon, E V (1957). Introduction to Old Norse. Oxford: Claredon Press. pp. 292–293.
  5. Stevenson, W. H. (December 1899). "The long hundred and its use in England". Archaeological Review. 4 (5): 313–317.
  6. Goodare, Julian (1993). "The Long Hundred in medieval and early modern Scotland" (PDF). Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. 123: 395–418.
  7. Statutes of the Realm, Vol. I, London: G. Eyre & A. Strahan, 1810, p. 204
  8. Ruffhead, Owen, ed. (1763a), The Statutes at Large, Vol. I: From Magna Charta to the End of the Reign of King Henry the Sixth. To which is prefixed, A Table of the Titles of all the Publick and Private Statutes during that Time, London: Mark Basket for the Crown, pp. 148–149. (English) & (Latin) & (Norman)

See also

External links

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