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A dozen (commonly abbreviated doz or dz) is a grouping of 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. Twelve is convenient because it has more divisors than other small numbers: 12 = 2 × 6 = 3 × 4 = 1 × 12. The use of twelve as a base number, known as the duodecimal system (also as dozenal), probably originated in Mesopotamia (see also sexagesimal). This could come from counting on one's fingers by counting each finger bone with one's thumb. Using this method, one hand can count to twelve, and two hands can count to 144. 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 baker's dozen, also known as a big or long dozen, is 13.
The English word dozen comes from the old form douzaine, a French word meaning "a group of twelve" ("Assemblage de choses de même nature au nombre de douze" — (translation: A group of twelve things of the same nature 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, Catalan dotzena, Arabic durzen "درزن", German Dutzend, Dutch dozijn, Italian dozzina and Spanish docena, are also used as indefinite quantifiers to mean "about twelve" or "many" (as in "a dozen times", "dozens of people").
A confusion may arise with the Anglo-Norman dizeyne (French dixaine or dizaine) a tithing, or group of ten households — dating from the late Anglo-Saxon system of grouping households into tens and hundreds for the purposes of law, order and mutual surety (see Tithing). In some texts this 'dizeyne' may be rendered as 'dozen'.[page needed]
A baker's dozen, devil's dozen, long dozen, or long measure is 13, one more than a standard dozen. The practice of baking 13 items for an intended dozen was insurance against the items being lower than the statutory weight, or of lower than usual quality, which could cause the baker to be fined.
In the late 16th century a bakers dozen referred to a batch made in which the customer was given a dozen and the last one constituted the bakers profit.
According to the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, by Captain Grose, "a Baker's Dozen is Thirteen; that number of rolls being allowed to the purchaser of a dozen".
The broadest use of bakers dozen today is simply a group of thirteen objects (often baked goods). A recent custom has emerged in which a baker's dozen refers to a dozen plus one (either for the baker to taste/enjoy or a bonus/spare).
Aside from pastries many items of food and beverages such as eggs and bottles of beer are sold in boxes of twelve in Anglo-Saxon countries. Most items can be referred to as a dozen for example "make sure there are at least a dozen chairs".
In some situations depending on convention numbers roughly between 24 and 99 can be referred to by the "dozens of" for example "dozens of people called in sick" or "there are dozens of models to choose from". To some extent "dozens of" and "tens of" are both interchangeable though this depends on the objects described and the context. "Tens of" has only recently become widely used in publishing and academia and is becoming more common.
- Bartleby, archived from the original on December 10, 2006
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- "dozen". Oxford Dictionaries Online. Ask Oxford. Retrieved 2013-01-31.
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- "docena". Diccionario Usual (in Spanish). Real Academia Española. Retrieved 2011-10-28.
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- "meaning #4", English Dictionary, Oxford.
- Melville-Lee (1901), A History of Police in England, Methuen
- "The Baker's Dozen", The Baker's Helper, 36, Clissold Publishing Company, 1921, p. 562.
- "Devil", Concise Oxford English Dictionary: Luxury Edition, 12, Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 392.
- Oxford Dictionary of English 3rd ed. 2010. ISBN 9780191727665.
- Grose, Francis (2007) . Classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue (unabridged ed.). p. 18.
- Webster's II New College Dictionary. ISBN 0395962145.