Dram (unit)

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The dram (alternative British spelling drachm;

avoirdupois system, and both a unit of mass and a unit of volume in the apothecaries' system.[2] It was originally both a coin and a weight in ancient Greece.[4] The unit of volume is more correctly called a fluid dram, fluid drachm, fluidram or fluidrachm (abbreviated fl dr, ƒ 3, or ).[1][2]: C-17 [3][5][6][7]

Ancient unit of mass

  • The Attic Greek drachma (δραχμή) was a weight of 6 obols, 1100 Greek mina, or about 4.37 grams.[8]
  • The Roman drachma was a weight of 196 Roman pounds, or about 3.41 grams.[9][10]

A coin weighing one drachma is known as a

drachm, which was itself based on the Roman dram/drachm.

British unit of mass

The British Weights and Measures Act of 1878 introduced verification and consequent stamping of apothecary weights, making them officially recognized units of measurement. By 1900, Britain had enforced the distinction between the avoirdupois and apothecaries' versions by making the spelling different:[11]

  • dram now meant only avoirdupois drams, which were 116 of an avoirdupois ounce. An ounce consisted of 437.5 grains, thus making the dram approximately 27.34 grains.
  • drachm now meant only apothecaries' drachms, which were 18 of an apothecaries' ounce of 480 grains, thus equal to 60 grains.

Modern unit of mass

In the

grains,[2]: C-6  or exactly 1.7718451953125 grams.[2]
: C-14 

In the

troy ounce (oz t), respectively).[2]: C-6–C-7  The dram apothecaries is equal to scruples (s ap or ℈) or 60 grains (gr),[2]: C-7  or exactly 3.8879346 grams.[2]
: C-14 

"Dram" is also used as a measure of the powder charge in a shotgun shell, representing the equivalent of black powder in drams avoirdupois.[13]

Unit of volume

The fluid dram (or fluid drachm in British spelling[14]) is defined as 18 of a fluid ounce,[2]: C-5, C-7  and is exactly equal to:


teaspoonful has been considered equal to one fluid dram for medical prescriptions.[16] However, by 1876 the teaspoon had grown considerably larger than it was previously, measuring 80–85 minims.[17] As there are 60 minims in a fluid dram,[2]: C-5, C-7  using this equivalent for the dosage of medicine was no longer suitable.[17] Today's US teaspoon is equivalent to exactly 4.92892159375 ml, which is also 16 US fluid ounces, 1+13 US fluid drams,[2]: C-18  or 80 US minims.[2]
: C-5 

While pharmaceuticals are measured nowadays exclusively in metric units, fluid drams are still used to measure the capacity of pill containers.

Dram is used informally to mean a small amount of

spirituous liquor, especially Scotch whisky.[18][4] The unit is referenced by the phrase dram shop, the U.S. legal term for an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages.[19]

In popular culture

The line "Where'd you get your whiskey, where'd you get your dram?" appears in some versions of the traditional pre–Civil War American song "Cindy".[20] In the Monty Python's song "The Bruces' Philosophers Song", there is the line "Hobbes was fond of his dram". In the old-time music tradition of the United States, there is a tune entitled "Gie the Fiddler a Dram",[21][22] "gie" being the Scots language word for "give", brought over by immigrants and commonly used by their descendants in Appalachia at the time of writing.

In the episode "Double Indecency" of the TV series Archer, the character Cheryl/Carol was carrying around 10 drams of Vole's blood and even offered to pay for a taxi ride with it.

In Frank Herbert's Dune, the Fremen employ a sophisticated measurement system that involves the drachm (and fractions thereof) to accurately count and economize water, an ultra-precious resource on their home, the desert planet Arrakis.


  1. ^
    New English Dictionary
    , 1897.
  2. ^
    OCLC 58927093
    . Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  3. ^ . Retrieved 2 July 2012.
  4. ^
    New English Dictionary
    , 1897.
  5. .
  6. . Retrieved 2 July 2012. Definition of FLUIDRAM: variant of fluid dram
  7. .
  8. . Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  9. ^ Smith, William (1886). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (3rd American ed.). New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 1062. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  10. ^ Ramsay, William Wardlaw (1883). An elementary manual of Roman antiquities (7th ed.). London: Charles Griffin and Company. p. 206. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  11. ^ "Apothecaries Weights". Retrieved 2016-09-21.
  12. OCLC 610190761. Archived from the original
    (PDF) on 3 June 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  13. . Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  14. ^ "The Weights and Measures Act 1985 (Metrication) (Amendment) Order 1994". www.legislation.gov.uk.
  15. OCLC 33237616
    . Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  16. New English Dictionary
    , 1911.
  17. ^ .
  18. ^ "Why is a measure of whisky called a dram?". TopWhiskies. Retrieved 2022-04-10.
  19. ^ Ritter, Francis D. (2000). Successful Personal Injury Investigation: Master the Techniques of Finding the Facts that Win Cases for Plaintiff Attorneys (First ed.). Oceanside, California: Diverse Publications. p. 804.
  20. ^ Erbsen, Wayne (1993). Front Porch Songs, Jokes & Stories. Native Ground. p. 12.
  21. ^ "The Milliner - Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes". slippery-hill.com. Archived from the original on 8 October 2015. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  22. ^ Brown, John. Gie the fiddler a dram. Rec. May 1939 by Herbert Halpert. Lib. of Cong. Web. 15 September 2015. <http://www.loc.gov/item/afc9999005.7452>.

External links