Dozen

Dozen

[duhz-uhn]
Dozen is another word for the number twelve. The dozen may be one of the earliest primitive groupings, perhaps because there are approximately a dozen cycles of the moon or months in a cycle of the sun or year. The dozen is convenient because its multiples and divisors are convenient: 12 = 2 × 2 × 3, 3 × 4 = 2 × 6, 60 = 12 × 5, 360 = 12 × 30. The use of twelve as a base number, known as the duodecimal system (also as dozenal), probably originated in Mesopotamia (see also sexagesimal). Twelve dozen (122 = 144, the duodecimal 100) are known as a gross; and twelve gross (123 = 1,728, the duodecimal 1,000) are called a great gross, a term most often used when shipping or buying items in bulk. A great hundred, also known as a small gross, is 120 or ten dozen (a dozen for each finger on both hands). A baker's dozen, also known as a long dozen, is thirteen.

The English word dozen comes from the old form of the French word douzaine, meaning "a group of twelve" ("Assemblage de choses de même nature au nombre de douze" as defined in the eighth edition of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française). This French word is a derivation from the cardinal number douze ("twelve", from Latin duodĕcim) and the collective suffix -aine (from Latin -ēna), a suffix also used to form other words with similar meanings such as quinzaine (a group of fifteen), vingtaine (a group of twenty), centaine (a group of one hundred), etc. These French words have synonymous cognates in Spanish: docena , quincena, veintena, centena, etc. English dozen, French douzaine and Spanish docena, are also used as indefinite quantifiers to mean "about twelve" or "many" (as in "a dozen times", "dozens of people").

Some historians believe that the base twelve was important because it counts things relating to the marks on the fingers on each hand aside the thumbs. Each finger except for the thumb is divided in three parts, four fingers makes twelve possibilities of counting, and two hands makes possible the accounting of twenty four objects. Using the decimal base for counting only allows ten possibilities with the both hands, one visual option for each finger. This method for accounting was introduced by the Babylonians and its still in use today.

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