The hundredweight (abbreviation: cwt), formerly also known as the centum weight or quintal, is a British imperial and US customary unit of weight or mass. Its value differs between the US and British imperial systems. The two values are distinguished in American English as the "short" and "long" hundredweight and in British English as the "cental" and the "imperial hundredweight".

Unit system
Unit ofmass
Hundredweight (cwt) used in a road sign in Ilkley, Yorkshire

Under both conventions, there are 20 hundredweight in a ton, producing a "short ton" of 2,000 pounds and a "long ton" of 2,240 pounds.


The hundredweight has had many values. In England in around 1300, different "hundreds" (centum in Medieval Latin) were defined. The Weights and Measures Act 1835 formally established the present imperial hundredweight of 112 lb.

The United States and Canada came to use the term "hundredweight" to refer to a unit of 100 lb. This measure was specifically banned from British use—upon risk of being sued for fraud—by the Weights and Measures Act 1824 but in 1879 the measure was legalised under the name "cental" in response to legislative pressure from British merchants importing wheat and tobacco from the United States.[3]


A weight restriction sign on Alderney using hundredweight

The short hundredweight is commonly used in the US in the sale of livestock and some cereal grains[4] and oilseeds, paper, and concrete additives and on some commodities in futures exchanges.[5]

A few decades ago, commodities weighed in terms of long hundredweight included cattle, cattle fodder, fertilizers, coal, some industrial chemicals, other industrial materials, and so on. However, since increasing metrication in most English-speaking countries, it is now less used. Church bell ringers use the unit commonly,[6] although church bell manufacturers are increasingly moving over to the metric system.[7]

Older blacksmiths' anvils are often stamped with a three-digit number indicating their total weight in hundredweight, quarter-hundredweight (28 lb, abbreviated qr), and pounds. Thus, an anvil stamped "1.1.8" will weigh 148 lb (112 lb + 28 lb + 8 lb).[8]

The Imperial hundredweight is used as a measure of vehicle weight in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. It was also previously used to indicate the maximum recommended carrying load of vans and trucks, such as the Ford Thames 5 and 7 cwt vans[9] and the 8, 15, 30 and 60 cwt Canadian Military Pattern trucks.[10]


In Europe outside British Isles, a centum or quintal was never defined in terms of British units. Instead, it was based on the kilogramme or former customary units. It is usually abbreviated q. It was 50 kg in Germany, 48.95 kg in France, 56 kg in Austria, etc. The unit was phased out or metricized after the introduction of the metric system in the 1790s, being occasionally retained in informal use up to mid-20th century.[11]

See also


  1. "Special Publication 811 (Guide to the SI)". NIST. 3 December 2019. Retrieved 15 February 2020.
  2. Text of the UK Units of Measurement Regulations 1995 as originally enacted or made within the United Kingdom, from , which reiterates for hundredweight the Text of the Weights and Measures Act 1985 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from .
  3. Nicholson, Edward (1912). "Chapter VII". Men and measures: a history of weights and measures, ancient and modern.
  4. Murphy, William J. "Tables for Weights and Measurement: Crops". University of Missouri Extension". Archived from the original on 25 May 2007.
  5. "Rough Rice Futures - Contract specifications". Agricultural products. CME Group. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  6. "Scope, Conventions, Abbreviations, etc". Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  7. "Turret Bells". Whitechapel Bell Foundry Limited. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  8. "Anvils-6: Marked Weight of Anvils". Getting Started in Blacksmithing. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  9. "New Thames - 5 & 7 cwt Vans". Archived from the original on 2016-11-14. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  10. "The CMP 15 cwt truck".
  11. "Centa". Croatian Encyclopedia (in Croatian). Retrieved 8 February 2021.
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