Printable Version
Pronunciation: pæwnd Hear it!

Part of Speech: Abbreviation

Meaning: A measure of weight equivalent to 16 ounces.

Notes: Did you ever wonder why we pronounce lb. (US) and lb (UK) pound ([pæwnd])? Well, the lb. is an abbreviation for Latin libra, a Roman measure of weight. Libra is a lexical stand-alone with no derivational relatives. The plural is either librae or libras. The plural of the abbreviation is lbs.

In Play: Anything with mass over 16 ounces may be measured in pounds: "50 lbs. of caviar from a mature beluga sturgeon is not unusual." We often use it in reference to weight gains and losses: "Chris lost 20 lbs. on the Whack-a-Mole Diet Plan but gained it back in a month."

Word History: Until 1971, the British monetary system carried the Latin format even further: £ "libra" stood for a monetary pound, which consisted of 20 s(olidi), pronounced "shilling", which comprised 12 d(enarii), pronounced "pence". Today 1£ = 100 pence. Latin libra "a balance, pair of scales" also referred to a unit of weight about 12 or 13 ounces. This word probably came from Proto-Italic leithra- "pound". Greek litra, some unit of weight, came from the same source. It was borrowed back by Latin, then ended up in the Romance languages as French litre, and as Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish litro, a measure of liquid capacity. It was borrowed from French by English where it kept its French spelling (litre) in the UK but was respelled liter in the US.

Dr. Goodword,

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