How Many Is A Dozen? History Of The Term

Table of contents:

How Many Is A Dozen? History Of The Term
How Many Is A Dozen? History Of The Term

Ever since a person discovered counting, numbers have been accompanying him all his life. In an infinite series of numbers, those that had a special meaning were distinguished, and became the basis of the number system.

Use of the word "dozen"
Use of the word "dozen"

People gave special names to especially significant numbers. For example, the number 10,000 in Russia was denoted by the word "darkness", and a million - "great darkness", 100,000 - "legion", and 100 million - "deck". All these ancient terms have long gone out of use, but the word "dozen" is still preserved in the Russian language.

The meaning and origin of the term

The term "dozen" corresponds to the number 12. It was customary to consider dozens piece by piece any homogeneous objects.

This word appeared in the Russian language relatively late, it is not found in historical documents until 1720. This was the era of Peter I, when Russia borrowed a lot from Western countries, including words - it is no coincidence that this word was originally used in the navy, this "brainchild" of the reformer tsar.

The Russian word "dozen" is a modified French "douzaine", which means "12". In turn, the French numeral comes from a Latin word with the same meaning "duodecim". Perhaps the origin of this word was facilitated by the consonance of the French numeral with the Russian word "hefty", which means "strong, distinguished by a strong constitution."

However, such a late appearance of the term "dozen" does not mean that before that in Russia, objects were not counted in 12 pieces. In pre-Petrine Russia, the number 12 was denoted by the Russian word "bortische".

Features of the number 12

The question arises why the number 12 is so honored, why a special designation was invented for it. In contrast, the special attitude to the number 10 is not surprising: the most ancient "counting instrument" was fingers (they are still used in this capacity by children), and a person has 10 fingers, so this number became the basis of the counting system.

But there was also another number system - duodecimal. It was used, in particular, in ancient Sumer. It is from this civilization that modern mankind "inherited" the division of a day into 24 hours, a year into 12 months, a circle of 360 degrees and 12 signs of the Zodiac. There are various hypotheses regarding the origins of such a system. The inhabitants of ancient Sumer could count not by the fingers themselves, but by their phalanges, excluding the thumb, or by the joints of the hand (shoulder, elbow, wrist, three joints of the middle finger, it turns out 12 on two hands).

The duodecimal system was not forgotten in European civilization either. For example, the English system of measures was based on it: an inch is 1/12 of a foot, a penny is 1/12 of a shilling. The Swedish king Charles XII intended to introduce a duodecimal counting system, a similar project was considered during the Great French Revolution.

In the modern world, some items are also counted at 12. Dozens or half a dozen are used to pack beer bottles and cans, and in England and the United States, eggs. Furniture sets and services, as a rule, are designed for 6 or 12 persons.

Before the introduction of the metric system, small haberdashery items or stationery - such as buttons or pencils - were considered gross. This word meant a dozen dozen - 144. There was also a larger measure of counting - dozand, or a mass equal to a dozen gross - 1728.