A common unit of weight in Ethiopia was the load - a simple measure of the amount carried by a beast of burden such as a camel [1]

A number of different units of measurement have been used in Ethiopia. The values of most of these units are not well defined.[2] In 1963, Ethiopia adopted the metric system.[3]

Pre-metric era

These units have also been referred to as Abyssinian units of measurements.


Different units were used to measure length.[2][3]

1 pic = 0.686 metres

1 farsang = 5070 m

1 berri = 13 farsang (approx. 3 pics)


A number of units were used to measure mass. One rotto is approximately equal to 0.311 kilograms. Some other units are provided below.[2][3]

1 drachm = 1120 rotto

1 derime = 1120 rotto

1 wakea (ounce) = 112 rotto

1 mocha = 110 rotto


Two types of measuring system were used, one for dry measures and one for liquid measures.


Different units were used to measure dry capacities. One madega is approximately equal to 0.44 litres.[2][3]

1 ardeb = 10 or 24 madega (these may sometimes be referred to as either the long ardeb, equal to 24 madega or the short ardeb, equal to 10 madega)[3]


The kuba(kubaya)pronounced in Ethiopia is approximately equal to 1.016 litres.[2]

Household units

More than 70 different units are used in an ordinary household. Some of the more important units used are kilograms, kunna, medeb, esir, bobo, pieces, litres, tassa, kubaya, birchiko, sini, bottles, guchiye, sahen and weket.[4]

Details for some of the common units of measurements are given below:[5]

(Note: Most of the above are actual household items, such as tassa translating to can, and sini mainly being used for serving coffee, not measuring coffee or any other substances.)


  1. ^ Pankhurst 1970, p. 45.
  2. ^ a b c d e Washburn, E.W. (1926). International Critical Tables of Numerical Data, Physics, Chemistry and Technology. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. p. 2.
  3. ^ a b c d e Cardarelli, F. (2003). Encyclopaedia of Scientific Units, Weights and Measures. Their SI Equivalences and Origins. London: Springer. pp. 7. ISBN 978-1-4471-1122-1.
  4. ^ Capeau, B.; Dercon, S. (1998), Prices, local measurement units and subsistence consumption in rural surveys: an econometric approach with an application to Ethiopia, Oxford: Institute of Economics and Statistics
  5. ^ Disney, R.; Mamo, A.; McKay, A. (8 November 2001), Local measure, quality effects and estimation of demand elasticities in urban Ethiopia, Nottingham: University of Nottingham

Further reading