Ethiopian units of measurement

A common unit of weight in Ethiopia was the load - a simple measure of the amount carried by a beast of burden such as a camel [1]

A number of different units of measurement were used in Ethiopia. The values of the most of these units are not well defined.[2] In 1963, Ethiopia adopted the metric system.[3]

Pre-metric era

These units were also referred to as Abyssinian units of measurements.


Different units were used to measure length.[2][4] Values provided below are approximations only as these units were not well-defined.[2]

1 pic = 0.686 m

1 farsang = 5070 m (approximation is up to 3 digits)

1 berri = 1/3 farsang (approx. 3 pics)


A number of units were used to measure mass. One rottolo is approximately equal to 0.311 kg. Some other units are provided below.[2][4]

1 drachm = 1/120 rotto

1 derime = 1/120 rotto

1 wakea (ounce) = 1/12 rotto

1 mocha = 1/10 rotto


Two types of measuring system were used as one for dry measures and one for liquid measures.


Different units were used to measure dry capacities. One madega is approximately equal to 0.44 l.[2][4]

1 ardeb = 10 or 24 madega (this may sometimes refer to either the long ardeb equal to 24 madega or the short ardeb equal to 10 madega)[4]


The kuba is approximately equals to 1.016 l.[2]

Household units

More than 70 different units are used in an ordinary household. Some of the more important units used are kilograms, kunna, medeb, esir, bobo, pieces, litres, tassa, kubaya, birchiko, sini, bottles, guchiye, sahen and weket.[5]

Some details for some common units of measurements in urban Ethiopia are given below:[6]


  1. Pankhurst 1970, p. 45.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Washburn, E.W. (1926). International Critical Tables of Numerical Data, Physics, Chemistry and Technology. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. p. 2.
  3. Cardarelli, F. (2003). Encyclopaedia of Scientific Units, Weights and Measures. Their SI Equivalences and Origins. London: Springer. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-4471-1122-1.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Cardarelli, F. (2003). Encyclopaedia of Scientific Units, Weights and Measures. Their SI Equivalences and Origins. London: Springer. p. 130. ISBN 978-1-4471-1122-1.
  5. Capeau, B.; Dercon, S. (1998), Prices, local measurement units and subsistence consumption in rural surveys: an econometric approach with an application to Ethiopia, Oxford: Institute of Economics and Statistics
  6. Disney, R.; Mamo, A.; McKay, A. (8 November 2001), Local measure, quality effects and estimation of demand elasticities in urban Ethiopia, Nottingham: University of Nottingham

Further reading

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