The quintal or centner is a historical unit of mass in many countries which is usually defined as 100 base units, such as pounds or kilograms.[1] It is a traditional unit of weight in France, Portugal, and Spain and their former colonies. It is commonly used for grain prices in wholesale markets in Ethiopia and India, where 1 quintal = 100 kg.[2]

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

Languages drawing its cognate name for the weight from Romance languages include French, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish quintal, Italian quintale, Esperanto kvintalo, Polish kwintal. Languages taking their cognates from Germanicized centner include the German Zentner, Lithuanian centneris, Swedish centner, Polish cetnar, Russian and Ukrainian центнер (tsentner), 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.


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 Albania (kuintal), Ethiopia (kuntal), and India, the 100 kilogram definition may have been introduced via Islamic[citation needed] trade. It is a standard measurement of mass for agricultural products in those countries.

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;[3] In Portugal a quintal is 128 arráteis or about 58.75 kg.

The German Zentner and the Danish Centner are pound-based, and thus since metrication are 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 (50.80 kg). Also, in the Dominican Republic it is about 125 lb (56.70 kg). 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. Commonly used in the Dominion ( and later province ) of Newfoundland up until the 1960s as a measure for 112 lbs of salt cod.

The quintal was defined in the United States in 1866[4] as 100 kilograms. However, it is no longer used in the United States or by NIST, though it still appears in the statute.[5]

In France, 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.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Rowlett, Russ (2018). "How Many? A Dictionary of Units of Measurement". ibiblio. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  2. ^ Quintal - Merriam Webster Dictionary. Merriam Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  3. ^ Real Academia Española's definition of quintal
  4. ^ Act of July 28, 1866, codified in 15 U.S.C. §205
  5. ^ "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 "Metric System of Measurement: Interpretation of the International System of Units for the United States; Notice" (PDF). NIST. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 30, 2006. Retrieved September 28, 2006.
  6. ^ "The use of Quintal for weight measurements". Sizes: the online quantinary. Retrieved 25 July 2017.