Why is pound abbreviated to lb?
INCHES is shortened to ‘Ins’, centimetres to ‘cm’ and kilograms to ‘kg’.
But a pound in weight is abbreviated to lb as it dates back to ancient times.
Where does lb come from?
The word ‘pound’ as a measure of weight originated from the ancient Roman term ‘libra pondo’.
The Latin word ‘libra’ translated as ‘balance’ or ‘scales’.
This is also the reason that the zodiac sign ‘Libra’, which corresponds to the dates September 23 – October 22, is represented by a pair of scales.
But, as part of the term ‘libra pondo’, this came to mean ‘a pound by weight’.
The abbreviation ‘lb’ is borrowed from the ‘libra’ part of ‘libra pondo’.
Where does the word ‘pound’ come from?
The etymology of the word ‘pound’ has a number of sources in history.
In its current form, ‘pound’ dates back to Middle English (1066-late 1400s), and was used to refer to a pound in weight.
Looking further back, the word ‘pund’ was used in Old English to mean the same thing.
This was the earliest form of the English language, dating back to the mid-5th century.
But early uses of the word ‘pound’ can also be attributed to the Proto-Germanic ‘pundą’, and the Proto-Indo-European ‘pend’.
These were early forms of the languages that are now spoken in Western Eurasia.
This goes to show that the word ‘pound’ was not always just native to the English language.
An early example of the word ‘pound’ in popular culture can be found in William Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice.
Jewish character Shylock lends money to his rival Antonio. When Antonio defaults on the loan, Shylock demands a pound of his flesh as a security interest.
The Merchant of Venice is believed to have been written between 1596 and 1599.
Today, the word ‘pound’ as a weight is used to refer to a mass that is equal to 16 ounces, or 453.56 grams.
When was the earliest known use of the term ‘lb’ in the English language?
The abbreviation ‘lb’ entered the English vocabulary in the late fourteenth century.
This was around the same time ‘libra pondo’ was first used. At the time, a ‘pound’ in weight typically referred to a Roman pound, made up of 12 ounces, rather than the 16 ounces we know today.
The abbreviation ‘lb’, in turn, led to an even shorter version of the word ‘pound’. This was a symbol we know today as the ‘hashtag’, or ‘#’.
This symbol came about because the abbreviation ‘lb’ was typically written with a short dash through the top of the ‘l’, joining to the curve of the ‘b’.
When scrawled in a hurry in cursive writing, this resembled the symbol that came to be known as ‘#’.
Today, this symbol is used interchangeably with ‘lb’ as an abbreviation of the word ‘pound’.
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