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Dram (unit)

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Title: Dram (unit)  
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Subject: Imperial units, Conversion of units, Batman (unit), United States customary units, Dram
Collection: Customary Units of Measurement in the United States, Imperial Units, Units of Mass, Units of Volume
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Dram (unit)

The dram (alternative British spelling drachm; apothecary symbol ʒ; abbreviated dr)[1][2]:C-6–C-7[3] was originally both a coin and a weight in ancient Greece.[4] It refers to a unit of mass in the avoirdupois system, and both a unit of mass and a unit of volume in the apothecaries' system.[2] The unit of volume is more correctly called a fluid dram, fluid drachm, fluidram or fluidrachm (abbreviated fl dr, ƒ 3, or ).[1][2]:C-17[3][5][6][7]


  • Ancient unit of mass 1
  • Modern unit of mass 2
  • Unit of volume 3
  • In popular culture 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Ancient unit of mass

  • The Attic Greek drachma was a weight of 6 obols, 1100 Greek mina, or about 4.37 grams.[8]
  • The Roman drachma was a weight of 196 Roman pounds, or about 3.41 grams.[9][10]

The Ottoman dirhem was based on the Sassanian drachm, which was itself based on the Roman dram/drachm.

Modern unit of mass

In the avoirdupois system, the dram is the mass of 1256 pound or 116 ounce.[2]:C-6 The dram weighs 87532 grains,[2]:C-6 or exactly 1.7718451953125 grams.[2]:C-14

In the apothecaries' system, which was widely used in the United States until the middle of the 20th century,[11] the dram is the mass of 196 pounds apothecaries (lb ap), or 18 ounces apothecaries (oz ap or ℥)[2]:C-7 (the pound apothecaries and ounce apothecaries are equal to the troy pound (lb t), and troy ounce (oz t), respectively).[2]:C-6–C-7 The dram apothecaries is equal to scruples (s ap or ℈) or 60 grains (gr),[2]:C-7 or exactly 3.8879346 grams.[2]:C-14

"Dram" is also used as a measure of the powder charge in a shotgun shell, representing the equivalent of black powder in drams avoirdupois.[12]

Unit of volume

A 'wee dram' being added to flavour the haggis at a Burns Supper

The fluid dram is defined as 18 of a fluid ounce,[2]:C-5,C-7 and is exactly equal to:

  • 3.6966911953125 ml in US customary units [3785.411784 ÷ 1024][2]:C-5,C-12
  • 3.5516328125 ml in British Imperial units [4546.09 ÷ (160 × 8)][2]:C-7[13]

A teaspoonful has been considered equal to one fluid dram for medical prescriptions.[14] However, by 1876 the teaspoon had grown considerably larger than it was previously, measuring 80–85 minims.[15] As there are 60 minims in a fluid dram,[2]:C-5,C-7 using this equivalent for the dosage of medicine was no longer suitable.[15] Today's teaspoon is equivalent to approximately 1 13 US fluid drams,[2]:C-18 or 80 US minims.[2]:C-5

Dram is also used informally to mean a small amount of spirituous liquor, especially Scotch whisky.[4]

In popular culture

The line "Where'd you get your whiskey, where'd you get your dram?" appears in some versions of the traditional pre-Civil War American song "Cindy." [16] In Monty Python's song entitled The Bruces' Philosophers Song there is the following line: "Hobbes was fond of his dram". In the old-time music tradition of the United States, there is a tune entitled "Give the Fiddler a Dram". [17][18]


  1. ^ a b   Earlier version first published in New English Dictionary, 1897.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p National Institute of Standards and Technology (October 2011). Butcher, Tina; Cook, Steve; Crown, Linda et al. eds. "Appendix C – General Tables of Units of Measurement" (PDF). Specifications, Tolerances, and Other Technical Requirements for Weighing and Measuring Devices. NIST Handbook. 44 (2012 ed.). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, Technology Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology. ISSN 0271-4027. OCLC OCLC 58927093. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  3. ^ a b Boyer, Mary Jo (2009). "UNIT 2 Measurement Systems: The Apothecary System". Math for Nurses: A Pocket Guide to Dosage Calculation and Drug Preparation (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA:  
  4. ^ a b   Earlier version first published in New English Dictionary, 1897.
  5. ^  
  6. ^ "fluidram". Merriam-Webster online. Springfield, MA:  
  7. ^ Powell, Richard;  
  8. ^ Donald J. Mastronarde (19 March 1993). Introduction to Attic Greek. University of California Press. p. 222.  
  9. ^  
  10. ^  
  11. ^ Judson, Lewis V. (March 1976) [October 1963]. "Appendix 8" (PDF). Weights and Measures Standards of the United States: A brief history (PDF). NBS Special Publication 447. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Bureau of Standards. p. 35.  
  12. ^ Buzzacott, Francis H.; Boyles, Denis (3 August 2008). The Complete Sportsman's Encyclopedia. Globe Pequot. p. 271.  
  13. ^  
  14. ^   Earlier version first published in New English Dictionary, 1911.
  15. ^ a b Bidwell, W.H., ed. (July–December 1876). "Domestic Measurement of Medicine". The Eclectic magazine of foreign literature, science, and art (New York:  
  16. ^ Erbsen, Wayne (1993). Front Porch Songs, Jokes & Stories. Native Ground. p. 12. 
  17. ^ "The Milliner - Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes". Retrieved 2015-09-15. 
  18. ^ Brown, John. Give the fiddler a dram. Rec. May 1939 by Herbert Halpert. Lib. of Cong. Web. 15 Sept. 2015. .

External links

  • Appendix C – General Tables of Units of Measurement in Specifications, Tolerances, and Other Technical Requirements for Weighing and Measuring Devices. NIST Handbook 44 (2012 ed.).
  • Image of Ancient Greek silver drachm with flying Pegasus, Acarnania, Leucas, c. 470–450 BCE
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