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The quintal or centner is a historical unit of mass in many countries which is usually defined as 100 base units of either pounds or kilograms. It is commonly used for grain prices in wholesale markets in India, where 1 quintal = 100 kg.[1]

In British English, it referred to the hundredweight; in American English, it formerly referred to an uncommon measure of 100 kilograms.



Both terms share their roots in the Classical Latin centenarius, meaning hundredlike, but the quintal has a convoluted etymology: It became Late Latin centenarium pondus, then in succession, Byzantine Greek κεντηνάριον (kentenarion) and Arabic qintar قنطار. The qintar was reimported to Europe by traders during the Middle Ages, where it became Medieval Latin quintale, and finally Old French quintal before passing into the English language from French.

The word centner, on the other hand, is simply a Germanicized form of its original Latin name centenarius.

Languages drawing its cognate name for the weight from Arabic qintar include French, Portuguese and Spanish quintal, Italian quintale, Esperanto kvintalo. Languages taking their cognates from Germanicized centner include German Zentner, Lithuanian centneris, Swedish centner, Polish cetnar, Russian центнер (tsentner), Ukrainian це́нтнер (tséntner), Estonian tsentner and Spanish centena.

Many European languages have come to translate both the imperial and American hundredweight as their cognate form of quintal or centner.

Pound-based vs. kilogram-basedEdit

The concept has resulted in two different series of masses: Those based on the local pound (which after metrication was considered equivalent to half a kilogram), and those uprated to being based on the kilogram.

In India and Albania (kuintal), the quintal as equivalent to 100 kilogram was imported via Arabic influence and is a standard measurement of mass for agricultural products.

In France it used to be defined as 100 livres (pounds), about 48.95 kg, and has been redefined as 100 kg (mesures usuelles), thus called metric quintal with symbol qq.

In Spain, the centena is still defined as 100 libras, or about 46 kg, but the metric quintal is also defined as 100 kg;[2]

In Portugal a quintal is 128 arrátels or about 58.75 kg.

The German Zentner is pound-based, and thus since metrication is defined as 50 kg, whereas the Austrian and Swiss Zentner since metrication has been re-defined as 100 kg. In Germany a measure of 100 kg is named a Doppelzentner.

Common agricultural units used in the Soviet Union were the 100-kilogram centner (центнер) and the term "centner per hectare". These are still used by countries that were part of the Soviet Union.

English useEdit

In English both terms quintal and centner were once alternative names for the hundredweight and thus defined either as 100 lb (exactly 45.359237 kg) or as 112 lb (about 50.84 kg). Also, in the Dominican Republic it is about 125 lb. The German Zentner was introduced to the English language via Hanseatic trade as a measure of the weight of certain crops including hops for beer production.

The quintal was defined in the United States in 1866[3] as 100 kilograms. However, it is no longer used in USA or by NIST though it still appears in the statute.[4]

In the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Indonesia and in India, it is still in daily use by farmers. In Brazil and other South American countries, it is used under its alternative spelling of "kintal". It is also used in some African countries including Angola.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Quintal - Merriam Webster Dictionary. Merriam Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  2. ^ Real Academia Española's definition of quintal
  3. ^ Act of July 28, 1866, codified in 15 U.S.C. §205
  4. ^ "Metric System of Measurement: Interpretation of the International System of Units for the United States", Federal Register notice of July 28, 1998, 63 F.R. 40333 "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 30, 2006. Retrieved September 28, 2006.
  5. ^ "The use of Quintal for weight measurements". Retrieved 25 July 2017. External link in |website= (help)