Word of the Week Wednesday: avoirdupois

This Wednesday’s Word of the Week is: avoirdupois.

This word refers to a system of weights used here in the U.S. (and in very few other countries).  Avoirdupois units include pounds, ounces, tons (but not tonnes).

The word comes from the Old French phrase avoir de pois  meaning “goods of weight”.  In this phrase, the verb avoir “to have” is used as a noun to mean “things that are possessed”, therefore goods.

While all that is interesting (to me at least), the reason this word resonates with me is that it reminds me of the charts of weights and measures found on the old marble notebooks we used to use.  Therefore, it reminds me of my days in Elementary School and tickles my sense of nostalgia.

Back then, having picked up a few bits and pieces of French, I saw the word and tried to figure out its etymology.  What I came up with was something like “having of pounds” with the implication that what defined this system from others (specifically the metric system) was that it had pounds and they didn’t.

Obviously, I was wrong, but looking at the real etymology, I was surprisingly not too far off.


About Dan Kingsepp, ACS, ALS
I'm starting this blog to share my thought on the use of the English language and my experiences as a Toastmaster.

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