dozen as a unit of measure

Here are my promised findings! According to Wikipedia,

The dozen may be one of the earliest primitive groupings, perhaps … because it has the most divisors of any number under 18. The use of twelve as a base number, known as the duodecimal system (also as dozenal), originated in Mesopotamia.

This makes sense to me, since units of 12 rather than 10 allows even division into halves, thirds and quarters.

There may also be cultural reasons for using 12 as a measure, especially for eggs:

The number twelve has had special significance for man since the ancient times, from Jesus’ twelve apostles to twelve full moons per year and twelve months in a year. There are twelve inches in a foot and twelve hourly divisions on a clock. There are twelve zodiac signs, twelve tribes of Israel and twelve Knights of the Round Table. There are twelve days of Christmas. But what does any of that have to do with why eggs are sold by the dozen?

Eggs too have had an important significance throughout history. To Christians, an egg represents the resurrection of Jesus. Eggs universally represent rebirth, fertility and new life. […]

Clearly old habits die hard! Even with the advent of the decimal system in Europe and elsewhere, eggs still continue to be sold by the dozen for the most part, although in some countries they are sold in cartons of ten.

Lisa Steele, “Why are Eggs Sold by the Dozen?“, Fresh Eggs Daily, 2015.


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