What is 'Hundredweight (Cwt)'

A hundredweight, abbreviated Cwt, is a unit of measurement for weight used in certain commodities trading contracts. In North America, a hundredweight is equal to 100 pounds and is also known as a short hundredweight. In the United Kingdom, a hundredweight is 112 pounds and is also known as a long hundredweight.

Hundredweight is used as a unit of measure in trading livestock, grains and other commodities contracts. For example, on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the futures contract for rough rice is 2,000 hundredweights of long grain rough rice.

BREAKING DOWN 'Hundredweight (Cwt)'

Hundredweight was used as a unit of measure for buying and selling many more commodities in the past. Its usage has gradually declined in favor of contract specifications in pounds or kilograms.

The purpose of the hundredweight was that it provided a standard of measurement, simplifying the trading of certain goods among countries. This was especially true when dealing in items that were traded in large quantities. Along with the agreed upon measurements for short and long hundredweights, it was accepted that 20 hundredweights created a ton, where a short ton weighed 2,000 pounds and a long ton weighed 2,240 pounds. At times, the hundredweight was also referred to as a cental or a quintal, and was also known by the abbreviation cwt.

Use of the Hundredweight

Within the United States and United Kingdom, the hundredweight was most commonly used to measure tangible commodities. Many food items, such as cattle, oil seeds and grains were measured in hundredweight, along with items like paper and certain chemicals or additives. Rice, and other similar futures, may also be measured in hundredweight.

Anvils were commonly measured in hundredweight, using a decimal designation to state the number of hundredweights, quarter-hundredweights and pounds the anvil weighed. Though it is not necessarily the case today, the formula can still be used to determine anvil weight in instances where it is present.

Transition Away from the Hundredweight

With the increased use of the metric system across Europe, the hundredweight generally fell out of favor, especially since there were times when the term “hundreds” had multiple accepted definitions. As the metric system created a more universally accepted standard, dealing in hundredweight became less common due to this potential for ambiguity. Even though it is not as commonly used as it once was, it is still an accepted unit of measurement. The hundredweight is still used within certain U.S. sectors, especially those relating to agriculture, even though trade is often conducted in pounds or kilograms.

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