Portuguese customary units

King Manuel I, who fixed the country's measurement standards, in 1495.

Portuguese customary units were used in Portugal, Brazil and other parts of the Portuguese Empire until the adoption of the metric system in the 19th century.

In 1814, Portugal was the second country in the world – after France – to officially adopt the metric system. The system then adopted used the Portuguese traditional units designation instead of the original French ones (e.g.: vara for metre; canada for litre; and libra for kilogram). However, several difficulties prevented the implementation of the new system and the old Portuguese customary units continued to be used, both in Portugal and in Brazil (which meanwhile had become an independent country in 1822).

The metric system was finally adopted by Portugal and her colonies in 1852, this time using the original names of the units. Brazil replaced Portuguese customary units with the metric system only in 1862.

Length and weight standards of Portuguese customary units were defined, at national level, in the reign of Manuel I of Portugal in 1495. The remaining units were different from one region to another, but did not vary greatly from those established for Lisbon.

Route units

Portuguese name English name Subdivides in Equivalence in
Léguas de 20 ao grau
Metrical equivalence
Légua de 18 ao grau League of 18 to the degree 6173 m
Légua de 20 ao grau League of 20 to the degree 3 milhas geográficas 1 5555 m
Milha geográfica Geographical mile 1/3 1851 m

Length units

Portuguese name English name Subdivides in Equivalence in Varas Metrical equivalence
Braça Fathom 2 varas 2 2,2 m
Toesa Toise 6 pés 145 1,98 m
Passo geométrico Geometrical pace 5 pés 112 1,65 m
Vara Yard 5 palmos 1 1,1 m
Côvado Cubit 3 palmos 3/5 0,66 m
Foot 12 polegadas 3/10 0,33 m
Palmo de craveira Span 8 polegadas 1/5 0,22 m
Polegada Inch 12 linhas 1/40 27,5 mm
Linha Line 12 pontos 1/480 2,29 mm
Ponto Point 1/5760 0,19 mm

Weight units

Portuguese name English name Subdivides in Equivalence in Arráteis Metrical equivalence
Tonelada Tonne 13,5 quintais 1728 793,152 kg
Quintal Hundredweight 4 arrobas 128 58,752 kg
Arroba Arroba 32 arráteis 32 14,688 kg
Arrátel Pound 4 quartas 1 0,459 kg
Marco Mark 8 onças 1/2 0,22950 kg
Quarta Fourth 4 onças 1/4 0,11475 kg
Onça Ounce 8 oitavas 1/16 28,6875 g
Oitava Dram 3 escrópulos 1/128 3,5859 g
Escrópulo Scruple 24 grãos 1/384 1,1953 g
Grão Grain 1/9216 0,0498 g

Liquid volume units (for Lisbon)

Portuguese name English name Subdivides in Equivalence in canadas Metric equivalence
Tonel Cask 2 pipas 600 840 l
Pipa Barrel 25 almudes 300 420 l
Almude 2 potes 12 16,8 l
Pote Pot 6 canadas 6 8,4 l
Canada 4 quartilhos 1 1,4 l
Quartilho Pint 2 meios quartilhos 1/4 0,35 l
Meio quartilho 1/8 0,175 l

See also


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