Scottish units

Scottish or Scots units of measurement are the weights and measures peculiar to Scotland which were nominally replaced by English units in 1685 but continued to be used in unofficial contexts until at least the late 18th century. The system was based on the ell (length), stone (mass), and boll and firlot (volume). This official system coexisted with local variants, especially for the measurement of land area.

The system is said to have been introduced by David I of Scotland (1124–53), although there are no surviving records until the 15th century when the system was already in normal use. Standard measures and weights were kept in each burgh, and these were periodically compared against one another at "assizes of measures", often during the early years of the reign of a new monarch. Nevertheless, there was considerable local variation in many of the units, and the units of dry measure steadily increased in size from 1400 to 1700.[1][2]

The Scots units of length were technically replaced by the English system by an Act of the Parliament of Scotland in 1685,[3] and the other units by the Treaty of Union with England in 1706.[4] However many continued to be used locally during the 18th and 19th centuries. The introduction of the Imperial system by the Weights and Measures Act 1824 saw the end of any formal use in trade and commerce, although some informal use as customary units continued into the 20th century. "Scotch measure" or "Cunningham measure" was brought to parts of Ulster in Ireland by Ulster Scots settlers, and used into the mid-19th century.[5][6]


Scottish inch
As in England (2.54 cm).[2] A fraudulent smaller inch of ​142 of an ell is also recorded.[7]
foot (fit)
12 inches (30.53 cm).[3][7]
yard (yaird)
36 inches (91.59 cm).[3] Rarely used except with English units, although it appears in an Act of Parliament from 1432: "The king's officer, as is foresaid, shall have a horn, and each one a red wand of three-quarters of a yard at least."[8]
The ell (Latin: ulna) was the basic unit of length, equal to 37 inches (94.13 cm).[9] The "Barony ell" of 42 inches (106.9 cm) was used as the basis for land measurement in the Four Towns area near Lochmaben, Dumfriesshire.[10]
fall (faw)
6 ells, or 222 inches (5.648 m). Identical to the Scots rod and raip ("rope").[11]
Scots mile 
320 falls or 5920 feet (1807 m), but varied from place to place. Obsolete by the 19th century.[12]


A number of conflicting systems were used for area, sometimes bearing the same names in different regions, but working on different conversion rates. Because some of the systems were based on what land would produce, rather than the physical area, they are listed in their own section. Please see individual articles for more specific information. Because fertility varied widely, in many areas, production was considered a more practical measure.

Area by size

For information on the squared units, please see the appropriate articles in the length section

  • square inch
  • square ell
  • square fall (faw)
  • rood (ruid)
  • acre

Area by production

Oxgangs towards Comiston
Oxgangs, Edinburgh named after the Scottish unit.

Eastern Scotland:

  • oxgang (damh-imir) = the area an ox could plough in a year (around 20 acres)
  • ploughgate (plougate) = 8 oxgangs
  • dauch (dabhach/davoch) = 4 ploughgates

Area by taxation/rent

In western Scotland, including Galloway:


Dry volume

Dry volume measures were slightly different for various types of grain, but often bore the same name.

Weight equivalents of one boll are given in a trade dictionary of 1863 as follows: Flour 140 pounds; Peas or beans 280 pounds; Oats 264 pounds; Barley 320 pounds; Oatmeal 140 pounds.[13]

Fluid volume

Nipperkin was also used, but perhaps not part of this more formal set.[14][15]

Standard Measures of Scotland before 1707:[16][17][18][19]

Name Scottish units US customary units English units Metric units Notes
gill of Spirits 6 3/5 cubic inches
gill of Ale or Beer 0.014 Gal.(US) 0.053 L
mutchkin 4 gills 0.056 Gal.(US) 3 gills .212 L
chopin 4 mutchkins;16 gills 0.224 Gal.(US) .848 L Derived from the French measure chopine, from c. 13th century.
pint (Scots) of Spirits 2 chopins 28 7/8 cubic inches
pint (Scots) of Ale or Beer 2 chopins 0.448 Gal.(US) 1 quart + 1 pint 1.696 L a.k.a. joug, Tappit Hen; 105 cubic inches;
gallon of Wine or Spirits 8 pints 231 cubic inches, 35 gills in a gallon of spirits
gallon of Ale or Beer 8 pints 3.584 Gal.(US) 3 gallons 13.638 L 846 cubic inches
hogshead of Ale or Beer 54 gallons or 16 gallons
hogshead of Wine or Spirits 63 gallons


Weight was measured according to "troy measure" (Lanark) and "tron measure" (Edinburgh), which were standardised in 1661. In the Troy system these often bore the same name as imperial measures.

  • drop (drap)
  • ounce (unce)
  • pound (pund)
  • stone (stane)

Various local measures all existed, often using local weighing stones.

See also the weight meanings of the boll under the dry volume section, above.

See also


  • Collins Encyclopedia of Scotland
  • Weights and Measures, by D. Richard Torrance, SAFHS, Edinburgh, 1996, ISBN 1-874722-09-9 (NB book focuses on Scottish weights and measures exclusively)
  • This article incorporates text from "Dwelly's [Scottish] Gaelic Dictionary" (1911).
  • Scottish National Dictionary and Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue
  • Weights and Measures in Scotland: A European Perspective R. D. Connor, et al. National Museum of Scotland and Tuckwell Press, NMSE Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1-901663-88-4


  1. ^ Simpson, A. D. C. (2005), "Interpreting Scots measurement terms: a cautionary tale", in Kay, Christian J.; Mackay, Margaret A., Perspectives on the Older Scottish Tongue, Edinburgh: University Press, pp. 139–52.
  2. ^ a b Connor, R. D.; Simpson, A. D. C. (2004), Weights and Measures in Scotland: A European Perspective, Edinburgh: NMS/Tuckwell Press, ISBN 978-1-901663-88-4.
  3. ^ a b c "Act for a standard of miles" (16 June 1685). APS viii: 494, c.59. RPS 1685/4/83.
  4. ^ Union with England Act 1707 (c. 7), art. 17.
  5. ^ Andrews, John Harwood (1985). Plantation acres: an historical study of the Irish land surveyor and his maps. Ulster Historical Foundation. p. 126. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  6. ^ Hall, Anna Maria (1842). Ireland: Its Scenery, Character, &c. How and Parsons. pp. 198, fn. Retrieved 15 May 2015. We notice the Scotch acre, chiefly because it is the measure employed in some of the northern Irish counties.
  7. ^ a b Act anent the foot measure (29 September 1663), RPS 1663/6/81.
  8. ^ Act of 10 March 1432, RPS 1432/3/12.
  9. ^ Act of 11 March 1427, RPS 1427/3/2.
  10. ^ Sinclair, John (1793), The statistical account of Scotland, Edinburgh: W. Creech, p. 240.
  11. ^ "fall, faw", Dictionary of the Scottish Language – Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue online edition.
  12. ^ "mile", Dictionary of the Scottish Language – Scottish National Dictionary online edition.
  13. ^ Simmonds, P L (1863). A dictionary of trade products, commercial, manufacturing, and technical terms: with a definition of the moneys, weights, and measures of all countries, reduced to the British standard. London: Routledge, Warne & Routledge.
  14. ^ "Nipperkin". World Wide Words: Investigating the English language across the globe. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  15. ^ Donn, Benjamin. "A new introduction to the mathematicks: being essays on vulgar and decimal Arithmetick (1858)". Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  16. ^ Wood, L. Ingleby. Scottish pewter-ware and pewterers. London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co., Ltd. pp. 122–124. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  17. ^ "Scottish Weights and Measures: Capacity". Scottish Archive Network. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  18. ^ Morrison, C. (1820). The Young Lady's Guide to Practical Arithmetic. London: Ogle, Duncan, & Co. p. iv. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  19. ^ Tinwell, William (1805). A treatise of practical arithmetic and bookkeeping, by single entry (Fifth ed.). M. Angus and Son. p. 21. Retrieved 11 September 2016.

External links

British Rail Class 936

The British Rail Class 936 was reserved for former electrical multiple units not from the South-East, converted for departmental use. Units were converted for various tasks, including application of sandite, and de-icing duties.

Merseyrail Units

Scottish Units


The carucate or carrucate (Medieval Latin: carrūcāta or carūcāta) was a medieval unit of land area approximating the land a plough team of eight oxen could till in a single annual season. It was known by different regional names and fell under different forms of tax assessment.

Chopin (unit)

The chopin was a Scottish measurement of volume, usually for fluids, that was in use from at least 1661, though possibly 15th century, until the mid 19th century. The measurement was derived from the French measure chopine an old and widespread unit of liquid capacity, first recorded in the 13th century. A chopin is equivalent to 0.848 litres.

1 chopin is 8 gills

1 chopin is 2 mutchkins

2 chopins is the equivalent of 1 (Scots) pint (or joug)

16 chopins is the equivalent of 1 (Scots) gallon


The davoch, davach or daugh is an ancient Scottish land measurement. All of these terms are cognate with modern Scottish Gaelic dabhach. The word dabh or damh means an "ox" (cf. oxgang, damh-imir), but dabhach can also refer to a "tub", so may indicate productivity. It was called the arachor in the Lennox.

It is thought that the measurement is of Pictish origins, and is most common in the north east, and often absent in the south of Scotland. It is particularly common in various placenames to this day, often in the form "Daugh of Invermarkie" etc. The name "Haddo" is also a corruption of “Hauf Daugh”, or half-davoch, in turn a translation of “leth-dhabhach”.

Scottish land measurements tended to be based on how much livestock they could support. This was particularly important in a country where fertility would vary widely. In the east a davoch would be a portion of land that could support 60 cattle or oxen. MacBain reckoned the davoch to be “either one or four ploughgates, according to locality and land”. A ploughgate contains about 100 Scots acres (5.3 km2).

Watson, in The Placenames of Ross & Cromarty, says, “usually four ploughgates”. Skene in Celtic Scotland says:

“in the eastern district there is a uniform system of land denomination consisting of ‘dabhachs’, ‘ploughgates’ and ‘oxgangs’, each ‘dabhach’ consisting of four ‘ploughgates’ and each ‘ploughgate’ containing eight ‘oxgangs’.“As soon as we cross the great chain of mountains separating the eastern from the western waters, we find a different system equally uniform. The ‘ploughgates’ and ‘oxgangs’ disappear, and in their place we find dabhachs and ‘pennylands’. The portion of land termed a ‘dabhach’ is here also called a tirung or 'ounceland', and each ‘dabhach’ contains 20 pennylands.”The pennyland is thought to be of Norse origin, so it is possible that Norse and native systems were conflated in the west.

Prof. MacKinnon in Place and Personal Names of Argyll says,

“In Pictland the unit of land measure was the ‘dabhach’, a unit which properly denotes a liquid measure. An old farmer in Western Gaeldom frequently speaks of his fields, not as containing so many acres of land, but as ‘the sowing of so many bolls of oats’, ‘the bed of so many barrels of potatoes’ &c. Accordingly, from a measure of capacity, ‘dabhach’ came early to be used as a measure of land surface. In Gaeldom, where arable land is scant and scattered, the variations in the acreage, of particular ‘dabhachs’ or ‘ounces’ must have been very great, still the extent of land represented by these terms seems to have been, as a rule, about 104 Scots acres, or 120 English acres [0.547 km2]”.The lexicographer Jamieson claimed that a daugh was enough to produce about 48 bolls, and averaged an area of approximately 1 1⁄2 square miles (3.9 km2).

Daughs are referred to in the Book of Deer, and were recorded as being in use in the late 18th century in Inverness-shire. In some areas, a quarter of a davoch was a ploughgate, and an eighth an ochdamh.


An ell (from Proto-Germanic *alinō, cognate with Latin ulna) is a unit of measurement, originally a cubit, i.e., approximating the length of a man's arm from the elbow (elbow literally meant the bend (bow) of the arm (ell)) to the tip of the middle finger, or about 18 inches (457 mm); in later usage, any of several longer units. In English-speaking countries, these included (until the 19th century) the Flemish ell (​3⁄4 of a yard), English ell (​1 1⁄4 yards) and French ell (​1 1⁄2 yards), some of which are thought to derive from a "double ell".An ell-wand or ellwand was a rod of length one ell used for official measurement. Edward I of England required that every town have one. In Scotland, the Belt of Orion was called "the King's Ellwand".Several national forms existed, with different lengths, including

the Scottish ell (≈37 inches or 94 centimetres),

the Flemish ell [el] (≈27 in or 68.6 cm),

the French ell [aune] (≈54 in or 137.2 cm),

the Polish ell (≈31 in or 78.7 cm), the Danish alen (24 Danish inches or 2 Danish fod: 62.7708 cm), the Swedish aln (2 Swedish fot ≈59 cm) and the German ell [Elle] of different lengths in Frankfurt (54.7 cm), Cologne, Leipzig (Saxony) or Hamburg.

Select customs were observed by English importers of Dutch textiles: although all cloths were bought by the Flemish ell, linen was sold by the English ell, but tapestry was sold by the Flemish ell.The Viking ell was the measure from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, about 18 inches. The Viking ell or primitive ell was used in Iceland up to the 13th century. By the 13th century, a law set the "stika" as equal to 2 ells which was the English ell of the time.

Gallon (Scots)

The Scots gallon was a unit of measurement of liquids that was in use in Scotland from at least 1661 (possibly 15th century) until the mid 19th century. It was approximately three times larger than the Imperial gallon that was adopted in 1824.

A gallon is made up of eight Jougs or Scots pints

A gallon is made up of sixteen chopins

A Scots gallon is equivalent to 13.568 litres


A groatland, also known as a fourpenceland, fourpennyland or “Còta bàn” (meaning "white coat") was a Scottish land measurement. It was so called, because the annual rent paid on it was a Scottish “groat” (coin).


The inch (abbreviation: in or ″) is a unit of length in the (British) imperial and United States customary systems of measurement. It is equal to ​1⁄36 yard or ​1⁄12 of a foot. Derived from the Roman uncia ("twelfth"), the word inch is also sometimes used to translate similar units in other measurement systems, usually understood as deriving from the width of the human thumb. Standards for the exact length of an inch have varied in the past, but since the adoption of the international yard during the 1950s and 1960s it has been based on the metric system and defined as exactly 25.4 mm.


The joug or scottish pint (Scottish Gaelic: pinnt) was a Scottish unit of measurement of liquids that was in use from at least 1661, (possibly 15th century), until the early 19th century. Bakers used the measure until the late 19th century.

1 joug is sixteen gills

1 joug is four mutchkins

1 joug is two chopins

8 joug makes up a gallon

A joug or pint is equivalent to 1696 ml in metric measurements or roughly three Imperial pints.

Markland (Scots)

A markland or merkland (Scottish Gaelic: Marg-fhearainn) is an old Scottish unit of land measurement.

There was some local variation in the equivalences, for example, in some places eight ouncelands were equal to one markland, but in others, such as Islay, a markland was twelve ouncelands. The markland derived its name from the old coin the Merk Scots (cognate with German mark and various other European coinages, see Mark (money)), which was the annual rent paid on it, and so it was calculated by this, rather than its actual area. Originally a Scots mark or merk was 13s 4d (160 pence), but the Scottish coinage depreciated against the English, and by the 18th century a Scots merk was worth only 13 1/3d sterling – one-twelfth of its original value. Although such coins were abolished by the Acts of Union 1707, some stayed in circulation for decades, and the names themselves remained in common use for centuries.

Military history of Scotland

Historically, Scotland has a long military tradition that predates the Act of Union with England. Its soldiers form part of the armed forces of the United Kingdom, more usually referred to domestically within Britain as the British Armed Forces.


An ounceland (Scottish Gaelic: unga) is a traditional Scottish land measurement. It was found in the West Highlands, and Hebrides. In Eastern Scotland, other measuring systems were used instead. It was equivalent to 20 pennylands or one eighth of a markland. Like those measurements, it is based on the rent paid, rather than the actual land area. It was also known as a "tirung" (from Scottish Gaelic: tìr-unga), or a dabhach (same as daugh), which is a term of Pictish origin, also used in the east of Scotland too, but for a different measurement. The “ounceland” is thought to be of Norse origin, so it is possible that Norse (‘ounceland’) and native systems (dabhach) were conflated in the west.


An oxgang or bovate (Old English: oxangang; Danish: oxgang; Scottish Gaelic: damh-imir; Medieval Latin: bovāta) is an old land measurement formerly used in Scotland and England as early as the 16th century sometimes referred to as an oxgait. It averaged around 20 English acres, but was based on land fertility and cultivation, and so could be as low as 15.An oxgang is also known as a bovate, from bovāta, a Medieval Latinisation of the word, derived from the Latin bōs, meaning "ox, bullock or cow". Oxen, through the Scottish Gaelic word damh or dabh, also provided the root of the land measurement 'daugh'.

Skene in Celtic Scotland says:

"in the eastern district there is a uniform system of land denomination consisting of 'dabhachs', 'ploughgates' and 'oxgangs', each 'dabhach' consisting of four 'ploughgates' and each 'ploughgate' containing eight 'oxgangs'."As soon as we cross the great chain of mountains [the Grampian Mountains] separating the eastern from the western waters, we find a different system equally uniform. The 'ploughgates' and 'oxgangs' disappear, and in their place we find 'dabhachs' and 'pennylands'. The portion of land termed a 'dabhach' is here also called a 'tirung' or 'ounceland', and each 'dabhach' contains 20 pennylands."In Scotland, oxgang occurs in Oxgangs, a southern suburb of Edinburgh, and in Oxgang, an area of the town of Kirkintilloch.


A peck is an imperial and United States customary unit of dry volume, equivalent to 2 dry gallons or 8 dry quarts or 16 dry pints (9.09 (UK) or 8.81 (US) liters). Two pecks make a kenning (obsolete), and four pecks make a bushel. Although the peck is no longer widely used, some produce, such as apples, is still often sold by the peck. Despite being referenced in the well-known Peter Piper tongue twister, pickled peppers are so rarely sold by the peck that any association between pickled peppers and the peck unit of measurement is considered humorous in nature.


A pennyland (Scottish Gaelic: “peighinn”) is an old Scottish land measurement. It was found in the West Highlands, and also Galloway, and believed to be of Norse origin. It is frequently found in minor placenames.

Skene in Celtic Scotland says:

"in the eastern district there is a uniform system of land denomination consisting of 'dabhachs', 'ploughgates' and 'oxgangs', each 'dabhach' consisting of four 'ploughgates' and each 'ploughgate' containing eight 'oxgangs'."As soon as we cross the great chain of mountains separating the eastern from the western waters, we find a different system equally uniform. The 'ploughgates' and 'oxgangs' disappear, and in their place we find 'dabhachs' and 'pennylands'. The portion of land termed a 'dabhach' is here also called a 'tirung' or 'ounceland', and each 'dabhach' contains 20 pennylands."The Rev. Dr Campbell of Broadford on Skye says:

"the system of land measure which prevailed in the Western Isles, and then took root in Argyll was neither Pictish nor Irish, but Norse. The unit was the ‘ounce-’land, i.e. the extent of land which paid the rent of an ounce of silver. The word was borrowed by Gaelic and appears as ‘unnsa’. The land term was ‘unga’, e.g. Unganab in North Uist and in Tiree. It appears in the old charters as ‘teroung’, ‘teiroung’, &c. This extent was divided into twenty parts—sometimes into only 18 – which parts being called ‘peighinn’; hence many placenames, e.g. Pennymore, Peighinnchornach. In some places the pennyland was subdivided. On Loch Fyneside we meet with Lephinmore, Lephincorrach, (‘the big half-pennyland’, the ‘rough half pennyland’); also ‘an Fheòirling’ (the ‘farthingland’). A conventional use of the term ‘peighinn’ is met with in Skye—the crofting town of Elgol is separated by a march-dyke from the deer forest; each crofter is responsible for the upkeep of a specified length of the dyke, and it is called the ‘peighinn’ of his croft; similarly the part of the shore allotted to each croft for seaware is called the ‘peighinn’ of that croft."It should not be confused with pen which is a Brythonic language element in placenames such as Penicuik, in Midlothian.


A Quarterland or Ceathramh (Scottish Gaelic) was a Scottish land measurement. It was used mainly in the west and north.

It was supposed to be equivalent to eight fourpennylands, roughly equivalent to a quarter of a markland. However, in Islay, a quarterland was equivalent to a quarter of an ounceland. Half of a quarterland would be an ochdamh(, and in Islay a quarter of a quarterland a leothras(

The name appears in many Scottish placenames, notably Kirriemuir.

Kerrowaird – Ceathramh àrd (High Quarterland)

Kerrowgair – Ceathramh geàrr (Rough Quarterland)

Kerry (Cowal) - An Ceathramh Còmh’lach (The Cowal Quarterland)

Kerrycroy - An Ceathramh cruaidh (The Hard Quarterland)

Kirriemuir – An Ceathramh Mòr/Ceathramh Mhoire (either "The Big Quarterland" or "Mary’s Quarterland")Ceathramh was also used in Gàidhlig for a bushel and a firlot (or four pecks), as was Feòirling, the term used for a farthlingland.

Scottish acre

A Scottish or Scots acre (Scottish Gaelic: acair) was a land measurement used in Scotland. It was standardised in 1661. When the Weights and Measures Act of 1824 was implemented the English System was standardised into the Imperial System and Imperial acres were imposed throughout the United Kingdom, including in Scotland and indeed throughout the British Empire from that point on. However, since then the metric system has come to be used in Scotland, as in the rest of the United Kingdom..

Equivalent to -

Scottish measures

4 roods

Metric system

5,080 square metres , 0.508 hectares

Imperial system

1.3 acres (English)

Scottish regiment

A Scottish regiment is any regiment (or similar military unit) that at some time in its history has or had a name that referred to Scotland or some part, thereof, and adopted items of Scottish dress. These regiments were and are usually a product of the British Empire, either directly serving the United Kingdom, serving as colonial troops, or later as part of Commonwealth country military establishments. Their "Scottishness" is no longer necessarily due to recruitment in Scotland nor any proportion of members of Scottish ancestry. Traditionally, Scottish regiments cultivate a reputation of exceptional fierceness in combat and are often given romantic portrayals in popular media. Within Scotland, itself, regiments of the Scottish Lowlands did not adopt as distinctively "Scottish" (specifically Scottish Highland) uniforms until the late Victorian Era and even then the kilt, that most distinctive aspect of the Highland soldier, was not adopted wholesale.

Tron (Scotland)

A tron was a weighing beam in medieval Scotland, usually located in the marketplaces of burghs. There are various roads and buildings in several Scottish towns that are named after the tron. For example, Trongate in Glasgow and Tron Kirk in Edinburgh. Etymologically the word is derived from the Old French tronel or troneau, meaning "balance".

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