Stone (unit)

The stone or stone weight (abbreviation: st.)[1] is an English and imperial unit of mass equal to 14 pounds (6.35 kg).[nb 1] The stone continues in customary use in the United Kingdom for body weight.

A 16th-century bronze 1 stone weight emblazoned with the English coat of arms
General information
Unit systemBritish imperial
Unit ofMass

England and other Germanic-speaking countries of northern Europe formerly used various standardised "stones" for trade, with their values ranging from about 5 to 40 local pounds (roughly 3 to 15 kg) depending on the location and objects weighed. With the advent of metrication, Europe's various "stones" were superseded by or adapted to the kilogram from the mid-19th century on.


Stone weight with Darius the Great–era tri-lingual inscription. 9,950g
The Eschborn Museum's 2nd-century stone weight of 40 Roman pounds (c. 13 kg), beside an ID-1-sized card for scale

The name "stone" derives from the use of stones for weights, a practice that dates back into antiquity. The Biblical law against the carrying of "diverse weights, a large and a small"[7] is more literally translated as "you shall not carry a stone and a stone (אבן ואבן), a large and a small". There was no standardised "stone" in the ancient Jewish world,[8] but in Roman times stone weights were crafted to multiples of the Roman pound.[9] Such weights varied in quality: the Yale Medical Library holds 10 and 50-pound examples of polished serpentine,[10] while a 40-pound example at the Eschborn Museum is made of sandstone.[11]

Great Britain and Ireland

The 1772 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica defined the stone:[12]

STONE also denotes a certain quantity or weight of some commodities. A stone of beef, in London, is the quantity of eight pounds; in Hertfordshire, twelve pounds; in Scotland sixteen pounds.

The Weights and Measures Act of 1824, which applied to all of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, consolidated the weights and measures legislation of several centuries into a single document. It revoked the provision that bales of wool should be made up of 20 stones, each of 14 pounds, but made no provision for the continued use of the stone. Ten years later, a stone still varied from 5 pounds (glass) to 8 pounds (meat and fish) to 14 pounds (wool and "horseman's weight").[13] The Act of 1835 permitted using a stone of 14 pounds for trade[14] but other values remained in use. James Britten, in 1880 for example, catalogued a number of different values of the stone in various British towns and cities, ranging from 4 lb to 26 lb.[15] The value of the stone and associated units of measure that were legalised for purposes of trade were clarified by the Weights and Measures Act 1835 as follows:[14]

Pounds Unit Stone kg
1 1 pound 114 0.4536
14 1 stone 1 6.350
28 1 quarter 2 12.70
112 1 hundredweight 8 50.80
2,240 1 (long) ton 160 1,016


The English stone under law varied by commodity and in practice varied according to local standards. The Assize of Weights and Measures, a statute of uncertain date from c.1300, describes stones of 5 merchants' pounds used for glass; stones of 8 lb. used for beeswax, sugar, pepper, alum, cumin, almonds,[16] cinnamon, and nutmegs;[17] stones of 12 lb. used for lead; and the London stone of 12+12 lb. used for wool.[16][17] In 1350 Edward III issued a new statute defining the stone weight, to be used for wool and "other Merchandizes", at 14 pounds,[nb 2] reaffirmed by Henry VII in 1495.[19]

A nineteenth-century slide rule for estimating cattle carcass weights, calibrated in stones of 20, 17+12, 8 and 14 pounds[20]

In England, merchants traditionally sold potatoes in half-stone increments of 7 pounds. Live animals were weighed in stones of 14 lb; but, once slaughtered, their carcasses were weighed in stones of 8 lb. Thus, if the animal's carcass accounted for 814 of the animal's weight, the butcher could return the dressed carcasses to the animal's owner stone for stone, keeping the offal, blood and hide as his due for slaughtering and dressing the animal.[21] Smithfield market continued to use the 8 lb stone for meat until shortly before the Second World War.[22] The Oxford English Dictionary also lists:[23]

Commodity Number of pounds
Wool 14, 15, 24
Wax 12
Sugar and spice 8
Beef and mutton 8


The Scottish stone was equal to 16 Scottish pounds (17 lb 8 oz avoirdupois or 7.936 kg). In 1661, the Royal Commission of Scotland recommended that the Troy stone be used as a standard of weight and that it be kept in the custody of the burgh of Lanark. The tron (or local) stone of Edinburgh, also standardised in 1661, was 16 tron pounds (22 lb 1 oz avoirdupois or 9.996 kg).[24][25] In 1789 an encyclopedic enumeration of measurements was printed for the use of "his Majesty's Sheriffs and Stewards Depute, and Justices of Peace, ... and to the Magistrates of the Royal Boroughs of Scotland" and provided a county-by-county and commodity-by-commodity breakdown of values and conversions for the stone and other measures.[26] The Scots stone ceased to be used for trade when the Act of 1824 established a uniform system of measure across the whole of the United Kingdom, which at that time included all of Ireland.[27]


Before the early 19th century, as in England, the stone varied both with locality and with commodity. For example, the Belfast stone for measuring flax equaled 16.75 avoirdupois pounds.[28] The most usual value was 14 pounds.[29] Among the oddities related to the use of the stone was the practice in County Clare of a stone of potatoes being 16 lb in the summer and 18 lb in the winter.[29]

Modern use

In 1965 the Federation of British Industry informed the British government that its members favoured adopting the metric system. The Board of Trade, on behalf of the government, agreed to support a ten-year metrication programme. There would be minimal legislation, as the programme was to be voluntary and costs were to be borne where they fell.[30] Under the guidance of the Metrication Board, the agricultural product markets achieved a voluntary switchover by 1976.[31] The stone was not included in the Directive 80/181/EEC as a unit of measure that could be used within the EEC for "economic, public health, public safety or administrative purposes",[32] though its use as a "supplementary unit" was permitted. The scope of the directive was extended to include all aspects of the EU internal market from 1 January 2010.[33]

With the adoption of metric units by the agricultural sector, the stone was, in practice, no longer used for trade; and, in the Weights and Measures Act 1985, passed in compliance with EU directive 80/181/EEC,[32] the stone was removed from the list of units permitted for trade in the United Kingdom.[34][35][36] In 1983, in response to the same directive, similar legislation was passed in Ireland.[37] The Act repealed earlier acts that defined the stone as a unit of measure for trade.[36] (British law had previously been silent regarding other uses of the stone.)

The stone remains widely used in the UK and Ireland for human body weight: in those countries people may commonly be said to weigh, e.g., "11 stone 4" (11 stones and 4 pounds), rather than "72 kilograms" as in most of the other countries, or "158 pounds", the conventional way of expressing the same weight in the US.[38] The correct plural form of stone in this context is stone (as in, "11 stone" or "12 stone 6 pounds"); in other contexts, the correct plural is stones (as in, "Please enter your weight in stones and pounds"). In Australia and New Zealand, metrication has almost entirely displaced stones and pounds since the 1970s.

In many sports in both Britain and Ireland, such as professional boxing, wrestling, and horse racing,[39] the stone is used to express body weights.


The use of the stone in the British Empire was varied. In Canada for example, it never had a legal status.[40] Shortly after the United States declared independence, Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, presented a report on weights and measures to the U.S. House of Representatives. Even though all the weights and measures in use in the United States at the time were derived from English weights and measures, his report made no mention of the stone being used. He did, however, propose a decimal system of weights in which his "[decimal] pound" would have been 9.375 ounces (265.8 g) and the "[decimal] stone" would have been 5.8595 pounds (2.6578 kg).[41]

A depiction of a medieval German scale weighing bales of wool according to the local stone.

Before the advent of metrication, units called "stone" (German: Stein; Dutch: steen; Polish: kamień) were used in many northwestern European countries.[42][43] Its value, usually between 3 and 10 kg, varied from city to city and sometimes from commodity to commodity. The number of local "pounds" in a stone also varied from city to city. During the early 19th century, states such as the Netherlands (including Belgium) and the South Western German states, which had redefined their system of measures using the kilogramme des Archives as a reference for weight (mass), also redefined their stone to align it with the kilogram.

This table shows a selection of stones from various northern European cities:

City Modern country Term used Weight of
stone in
Weight of
stone in
local pounds
Dresden[44] Germany Stein 10.15 22 Before 1841
10.0 20 From 1841 onwards
Germany schwerer Stein 10.296 22 heavy stone
leichter Stein 5.148 11 light stone
  • Poland
  • Russia
großer Stein 15.444 33 large stone
kleiner Stein 10.296 22 small stone
Bremen[44] Germany Stein Flachs 9.97 20 stone of flax
Stein Wolle und Federn 4.985 10 stone of wool and feathers
Oldenburg[44] Germany Stein Flachs 9.692 20 stone of flax
Stein Wolle und Federn 4.846 10 stone of wool and feathers
Kraków[44] Poland Stein 10.137 25
Osnabrück[44] Germany Stein 4.941 10
Amsterdam[44] Netherlands steen 3.953 8 Before 1817
3 6 "Metric stone" (after 1817)
Karlsruhe[44] Germany Stein 5.00 10
Germany Stein 10.287 22
Breslau (Wrocław)[44] Poland Stein 9.732 24
Antwerp[44] Belgium steen 3.761 8
Prague[45] Czech Republic kámen/Stein 10.29 20
Solothurn[44] Switzerland Stein 5.184 10
Stockholm[45] Sweden sten 13.60 32 (32 Skålpund)
Warsaw[45] Poland kamień 10.14 25
Vilnius[45] Lithuania kamieni 14.992 40
Vienna[45] Austria Stein 11.20 20

Metric stone

In the Netherlands, where the metric system was adopted in 1817, the pond (pound) was set equal to a kilogram, and the steen (stone), which had previously been 8 Amsterdam pond (3.953 kg), was redefined as being 3 kg.[43] In modern colloquial Dutch, a pond is used as an alternative for 500 grams or half a kilogram, while the ons is used for a weight of 100 grams, being 15 pond.

See also


  1. Per the 1959 International Yard and Pound Agreement,[2][3][4][5] adopted by the United Kingdom in 1963.[6] Prior to that agreement, various minor differences existed between national standards and their conversions to the metric system.
  2. "that every Person do sell and buy by the Balance, so that the Balance be even, and the Woolls and other Merchandizes evenly weighed by the right Weight, so that the Sack of Wooll weigh no more but 26 Stones, and every Stone to weigh 14 l. and that the Beam of the Balance do not bow more to the one Part than to the other; (3) and that the Weight be according to the Standard of the Exchequer. (4) And if any Buyer do the contrary, he shall be grievously punished, as well at the Suit of the Party, as at the Suit of our Lord the King."[18]


  1. "stone", Concise Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1964.
  2. United States. National Bureau of Standards (1959). Research Highlights of the National Bureau of Standards. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Bureau of Standards. p. 13.
  3. National Bureau of Standards, Appendix 8 Archived 2009-01-18 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. National Physical Laboratory, P. H. Bigg & al. Re-determination of the values of the imperial standard pound and of its parliamentary copies in terms of the international kilogramme during the years 1960 and 1961
  5. pound avoirdupois.
  6. Weights and Measures Act of 1963.
  7. Deuteronomy 25:13
  8. The Pictorial Bible; being the Old and New Testaments according to the Authorised Version ... to which are added Original Notes. London: Charles Knight & Co. 1836.
  9. de Montfaucon, Bernard; Humphreys, David (Translator) (1722). Antiquity explained, and represented in sculptures, Volumes 3-4. London. pp. 107–109. {{cite book}}: |first2= has generic name (help)
  10. for example:
    Kisch, Bruno (1956). "Two Remarkable Roman Stone Weights in the Edward C. Streeter Collection at the Yale Medical Library". Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. XI (1): 97–100. doi:10.1093/jhmas/xi.1.97. PMID 13295580.
  11. A Roman stone weight of 40 librae is on exhibition in the Eschborn town museum (Germany). Retrieved 12 March 2012
  12. Encyclopædia Britannica Vol III, Edinburgh  1772.
  13. Gregory, Olinthus (1834). Mathematics for Practical Men. Philadelphia: E. L. Carey and A. Hart. pp. 21.
  14. Poppy, TG (4 June 1957). "The Development of Weights and Measures Control in the United Kingdom". Report of the National Conference on Weights and Measures, Volumes 41-45. Forty-second National Conference on Weights and Measures. Washington DC: US Department of Commerce – National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). pp. 22–34.
  15. Zupko, Ronald Edward (1985). A Dictionary of Weights and Measures for the British Isles. Vol. 168. American Philosophical Society. pp. 391–398. ISBN 9780871691682.
  16. 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. (in English) & (in Latin) & (in Norman)
  17. Statutes of the Realm, vol. I, London: G. Eyre & A. Strahan, 1810, p. 204
  18. 25 Edward III st. 5 c. 9.
  19. 11 Hen. VII c. 4 §2 (1495).
  20. A Cyclopedia of Agriculture, Practical and Scientific, vol. 2, Blackie and son, 1855, pp. 417–419
  21. Newman, LF (December 1954). "Weights and Measures". Folklore. Folklore Enterprises Ltd. 65 (3/4): 138. doi:10.1080/0015587x.1954.9717437. JSTOR 1259240. S2CID 165541893.
  22. "Meat Prices". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). United Kingdom: House of Lords. 1 March 1938. col. 901–902.
  23. Oxford English Dictionary, 1st ed. "stone, n., §14a". Oxford University Press (Oxford), 1917.
  24. "Scottish Weights and Measures: Weight". SCAN Weights and Measures Guide: Background information about Scottish weights and measures. Scottish Archive Network. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  25. "Scottish Weights and Measures: Background". SCAN Weights and Measures Guide: Background information about Scottish weights and measures. Scottish Archive Network. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  26. A Proposal for Uniformity of Weights and Measures in Scotland by Execution of Laws Now in Force. Edinburgh: Peter Hill. 1789.
  27. Mairi Robinson, ed. (2005) [1985]. "Appendix – Scottish Currency, Weights and Measures". Concise Scots Dictionary. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd. p. 817. ISBN 1-902930-00-2.
  28. Chaney, Henry J. (1897). Our Weights and Measures. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode. pp. 24.
  29. Edward Wakefield (1812). An account of Ireland, statistical and political. Vol. II. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown. pp. 197–202al.
  30. "White Paper on Metrication (1972) – Summary and Conclusions" (PDF). London: Department of Trade and Industry Consumer and Competition Policy Directorate. para 42–455. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  31. "Final Report of the Metrication Board (1980)" (PDF). London: Department of Trade and Industry Consumer and Competition Policy Directorate. Appendix A. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  32. The Council of the European Communities (21 December 1979). "Council Directive 80/181/EEC of 20 December 1979 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to Unit of measurement and on the repeal of Directive 71/354/EEC". Retrieved 7 February 2009.
  33. The Council of the European Communities (27 May 2009). "Council Directive 80/181/EEC of 20 December 1979 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to Unit of measurement and on the repeal of Directive 71/354/EEC". Retrieved 14 September 2009.
  34. Weights and Measures Act 1985 Retrieved 2013-01-17.
  35. Fenna, Donald (ed.), A Dictionary of Weights, Measures, and Units, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  36. "Weights and Measures Act 1985",, The National Archives, 1985 c. 72
  37. "S.I. No. 235/1983 – European Communities (Units of Measurement) Regulations, 1983". Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  38. Christine Hopkins, Ann Pope, Sandy Pepperell (2013). "Understanding Primary Mathematics". p. 195. Routledge.
  39. "HRI Directives" (PDF). Ballymany, Curragh, Co Kildare: Horse Racing, Ireland. Retrieved 21 July 2012. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  40. MacLean, RW (4 June 1957). "A Central Program for Weights and Measures Canada". Report of the National Conference on Weights and Measures, Volumes 41–45. Forty-second National Conference on Weights and Measures. Washington DC: US Department of Commerce – National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). pp. 44–49.
  41. Jefferson, Thomas (13 July 1790). "Plan for Establishing Uniformity in the Coinage, Weights, and Measures of the United States". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  42. Bartlett, James (1911). "Stone" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 958–960, see page 958, end of first para. The " stone " has been a common measure of weight in north-western Europe. In Germany....
  43. Doursther, Horace (1840). Dictionnaire universel des poids et mesures anciens et modernes. Bruxelles: M. Hayez. p. 424. liege.
  44. Noback, Christian; Noback, Friedrich Eduard (1851). Vollständiges Taschenbuch der Münz-, Maass- und Gewichts-Verhältnisse [etc.] aller Länder und Handelsplätze [Comprehensive pocketbook of money, weights and measures for all counties and trading centres] (in German). Vol. I. Leipzig: F. А. Brockhaus.
  45. Noback, Christian; Noback, Friedrich Eduard (1851). Vollständiges tasehenbuch der Münz-, Maass- und Gewichts-Verhältnisse etc. aller Länder und Handelsplätze [Comprehensive pocketbook of money, weights and measures for all counties and trading centres] (in German). Vol. II. Leipzig: F. А. Brockhaus.
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