Why pounds are abbreviated lbs and where the £ sign comes from

The English language is dotted with abbreviations. In the old days of print journalism and hand written notes, abbreviations were a great way of saving time, effort and ink. Today, they’re a nuisance as abbreviations are often misunderstood or confused with other meanings. When you consider two of the abbreviations we use when describing weight – lbs for Pounds and Oz for ounces, you really need to understand where the words came from to understand why pounds are abbreviated lbs.


A pound and 2 ounces of Gold for example will be abbreviated as 1 lbs and 2 Oz. That quickly looks like another language until you understand and accept these two shortcuts. The following history behind them will help you understand why we use them to this day.


Lbs is an abbreviation of the Latin “Libra”. As anyone born under the Libra star sign will already understand, the word’s primary meaning in Latin is “balance” or “scales”. The images attached to the astrological sign often give this meaning away to those who don’t already know it. The ancient Roman measurement of “libra pondo” or “a pound of weight” gives its meaning to the weight measurement we still use to this day and helps us understand the abbreviation. It’s funny how the language kept the “pondo” part to mean the weight and yet used the “libra” part to create the abbreviation. The “libra” part is also used within our written language to create the sign for our currency - £. This symbol is an “L” with a line through it to denote “libra.”


The word “Ounce” also comes from the Latin language. The Latin word “Uncia” gives us “Ounce” and also the “inch” unit of measurement. Medieval Italian “Onza” is responsible for the abbreviation we all know and use to this day as the “Oz” is an shortening of this word.

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