Compass graded with 400 gon
General information
Unit ofAngle
Symbolgon, ᵍ, grad
1 gon in ...... is equal to ...
   turns   1/400 turn
   radians   π/200 rad
≈ 0.0157... rad
   milliradians   5π mrad
≈ 15.71... mrad
   degrees   9/10°
   minutes of arc   54′

In trigonometry, the gradian – also known as the gon (from Ancient Greek γωνία (gōnía) 'angle'), grad, or grade[1] – is a unit of measurement of an angle, defined as one-hundredth of the right angle; in other words, 100 gradians is equal to 90 degrees.[2][3][4] It is equivalent to 1/400 of a turn,[5] 9/10 of a degree, or π/200 of a radian. Measuring angles in gradians is said to employ the centesimal system of angular measurement, initiated as part of metrication and decimalisation efforts.[6][7][8][Note 1]

In continental Europe, the French word centigrade, also known as centesimal minute of arc, was in use for one hundredth of a grade; similarly, the centesimal second of arc was defined as one hundredth of a centesimal arc-minute, analogous to decimal time and the sexagesimal minutes and seconds of arc.[12] The chance of confusion was one reason for the adoption of the term Celsius to replace centigrade as the name of the temperature scale.[13][14]

Gradians are principally used in surveying (especially in Europe),[15][7][16] and to a lesser extent in mining[17] and geology.[18][19]

As of May 2020, the gon is officially a legal unit of measurement in the European Union[20]: 9  and in Switzerland.[21]

The gradian is not part of the International System of Units (SI).[22][20]: 9–10 

History and name

The unit originated in France in connection with the French Revolution as the grade, along with the metric system, hence it is occasionally referred to as a metric degree. Due to confusion with the existing term grad(e) in some northern European countries (meaning a standard degree, 1/360 of a turn), the name gon was later adopted, first in those regions, and later as the international standard. In France, it was also called grade nouveau. In German, the unit was formerly also called Neugrad (new degree) (whereas the standard degree was referred to as Altgrad (old degree)), likewise nygrad in Danish, Swedish and Norwegian (also gradian), and nýgráða in Icelandic.

Although attempts at a general introduction were made, the unit was only adopted in some countries, and for specialised areas such as surveying,[15][7][16] mining[17] and geology.[18][19] The French armed forces' artillery units have used the gon for decades.[citation needed] Today, the degree, 1/360 of a turn, or the mathematically more convenient radian, 1/2π of a turn (used in the SI system of units) is generally used instead.

In the 1970s –1990s, most scientific calculators offered the gon, as well as radians and degrees, for their trigonometric functions.[23] In the 2010s, some scientific calculators lack support for gradians.[24]


See alsoU+00B0 ° DEGREE SIGN

The international standard symbol for this unit today is "gon" (see ISO 31-1). Other symbols used in the past include "gr", "grd", and "g", the last sometimes written as a superscript, similarly to a degree sign: 50g = 45°. A metric prefix is sometimes used, as in "dgon", "cgon", "mgon", denoting respectively 0.1 gon, 0.01 gon, 0.001 gon. Centesimal arc-minutes and centesimal arc-seconds were also denoted with superscripts c and cc, respectively.

SI multiples of gon (gon)
Submultiples Multiples
Value SI symbol Name Value SI symbol Name
10−1 gon dgon decigon 101 gon dagon decagon
10−2 gon cgon centigon 102 gon hgon hectogon
10−3 gon mgon milligon 103 gon kgon kilogon
10−6 gon μgon microgon 106 gon Mgon megagon
10−9 gon ngon nanogon 109 gon Ggon gigagon
10−12 gon pgon picogon 1012 gon Tgon teragon
10−15 gon fgon femtogon 1015 gon Pgon petagon
10−18 gon agon attogon 1018 gon Egon exagon
10−21 gon zgon zeptogon 1021 gon Zgon zettagon
10−24 gon ygon yoctogon 1024 gon Ygon yottagon
10−27 gon rgon rontogon 1027 gon Rgon ronnagon
10−30 gon qgon quectogon 1030 gon Qgon quettagon

Advantages and disadvantages

Each quadrant is assigned a range of 100 gon, which eases recognition of the four quadrants, as well as arithmetic involving perpendicular or opposite angles.

= 0 gradians
90° = 100 gradians
180° = 200 gradians
270° = 300 gradians
360° = 400 gradians

One advantage of this unit is that right angles to a given angle are easily determined. If one is sighting down a compass course of 117 gon, the direction to one's left is 17 gon, to one's right 217 gon, and behind one 317 gon. A disadvantage is that the common angles of 30° and 60° in geometry must be expressed in fractions (as 33+1/3 gon and 66+2/3 gon respectively).


Conversion of common angles
Turns Radians Degrees Gradians
0 turn 0 rad 0g
1/72 turn π/36 rad 5+5/9g
1/24 turn π/12 rad 15° 16+2/3g
1/16 turn π/8 rad 22.5° 25g
1/12 turn π/6 rad 30° 33+1/3g
1/10 turn π/5 rad 36° 40g
1/8 turn π/4 rad 45° 50g
1/2π turn 1 rad approx. 57.3° approx. 63.7g
1/6 turn π/3 rad 60° 66+2/3g
1/5 turn 2π/5 rad 72° 80g
1/4 turn π/2 rad 90° 100g
1/3 turn 2π/3 rad 120° 133+1/3g
2/5 turn 4π/5 rad 144° 160g
1/2 turn π rad 180° 200g
3/4 turn 3π/2 rad 270° 300g
1 turn 2π rad 360° 400g

Relation to the metre

Further information: History of the metre § Meridional definition

See also: Arc length § Great circles on Earth, and Nautical mile § Similar definitions

An early definition of the metre was one ten-millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the equator, measured along a meridian through Paris.

In the 18th century, the metre was defined as the 10-millionth part of a quarter meridian. Thus, 1 gon corresponds to an arc length along the Earth's surface of approximately 100 kilometres; 1 centigon to 1 kilometre; 10 microgons to 1 metre.[25] (The metre has been redefined with increasing precision since then).

Relation to the SI system of units

The gradian is not part of the International System of Units (SI). The EU directive on the units of measurement[20]: 9–10  notes that the gradian "does not appear in the lists drawn up by the CGPM, CIPM or BIPM." The most recent, 9th edition of the SI Brochure does not mention the gradian at all.[22] The previous edition mentioned it only in a footnote, which said the following:[26]

The gon (or grad, where grad is an alternative name for the gon) is an alternative unit of plane angle to the degree, defined as (π/200) rad. Thus there are 100 gon in a right angle. The potential value of the gon in navigation is that because the distance from the pole to the equator of the Earth is approximately 10000 km, 1 km on the surface of the Earth subtends an angle of one centigon at the centre of the Earth. However the gon is rarely used.

See also


  1. ^ On rare occasions, centesimal refers to the division of the full angle (360°) into hundred parts. One example is the description of the gradations on Georg Ohm's torsion balance in Ref.[9] The gradations were in one-hundredths of a full revolution.[10][11]


  1. ^ Weisstein, Eric W. "Gradian". mathworld.wolfram.com. Retrieved 2020-08-31.
  2. ^ Harris, J. W.; Stocker, H. (1998). Handbook of Mathematics and Computational Science. New York: Springer-Verlag. p. 63.
  3. ^ "NIST Guide to the SI, Appendix B.9: Factors for units listed by kind of quantity or field of science". nist.gov. NIST. Archived from the original on 2017-04-17.
  4. ^ Patrick Bouron (2005). Cartographie: Lecture de Carte (PDF). Institut Géographique National. p. 12. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-04-15. Retrieved 2011-07-07.
  5. ^ "Gradian". Art of Problem Solving. Retrieved 2020-08-31.
  6. ^ Balzer, Fritz (1946). Five Place Natural Sine and Tangent Functions in the Centesimal System. Army Map Service, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army.
  7. ^ a b c Zimmerman, Edward G. (1995). "6. Angle Measurement: Transits and Theodolites". In Minnick, Roy; Brinker, Russell Charles (eds.). The surveying handbook (2nd ed.). Chapman & Hall. ISBN 041298511X.
  8. ^ Gorini, Catherine A. (2003). The Facts on File Geometry Handbook. Infobase Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-4381-0957-2.
  9. ^ Cajori, Florian (1899). A History of Physics in Its Elementary Branches: Including the Evolution of Physical Laboratories. Macmillan. ISBN 9781548494957. The angle through which the torsion-head must be deflected was measured in centesimal divisions of the circle
  10. ^ Ohm, Georg Simon (1826). "Bestimmung des Gesetzes, nach welchem Metalle die Contactelektricität leiten, nebst einem Entwurfe zur Theorie des Voltaischen Apparates und des Schweiggerschen Multiplikators" (PDF). Journal für Chemie und Physik. 46: 137–166. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 May 2020. German: wurde die Größe der Drehung oben an der Drehwage in Hunderttheilen einer ganzen Umdrehung abgelesen (p. 147) [the amount of rotation at the top of the torsion balance was read in hundred parts of an entire revolution]
  11. ^ Keithley, Joseph F. (1999). The Story of Electrical and Magnetic Measurements: From 500 BC to the 1940s. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-7803-1193-0. It hung on a ribbon torsion element with a knob on top, graduated in 100 parts.
  12. ^ Klein, H.A. (2012). The Science of Measurement: A Historical Survey. Dover Books on Mathematics. Dover Publications. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-486-14497-9. Retrieved 2022-01-02.
  13. ^ Frasier, E. Lewis (February 1974), "Improving an imperfect metric system", Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 30 (2): 9–44, Bibcode:1974BuAtS..30b...9F, doi:10.1080/00963402.1974.11458078. On p. 42 Frasier argues for using grads instead of radians as a standard unit of angle, but for renaming grads to "radials" instead of renaming the temperature scale.
  14. ^ Mahaffey, Charles T. (1976), "Metrication problems in the construction codes and standards sector", Final Report National Bureau of Standards, NBS Technical Note 915, U.S. Department of Commerce, National Bureau of Commerce, Institute for Applied Technology, Center for Building Technology, Bibcode:1976nbs..reptU....M, The term "Celsius" was adopted instead of the more familiar "centigrade" because in France the word centigrade has customarily been applied to angles.
  15. ^ a b Kahmen, Heribert; Faig, Wolfgang (2012). Surveying. De Gruyter. ISBN 9783110845716.
  16. ^ a b Schofield, Wilfred (2001). Engineering surveying: theory and examination problems for students (5th ed.). Butterworth-Heinemann. ISBN 9780750649872.
  17. ^ a b Sroka, Anton (2006). "Contribution to the prediction of ground surface movements caused by a rising water level in a flooded mine". In Sobczyk, Eugeniusz; Kicki, Jerzy (eds.). International Mining Forum 2006, New Technological Solutions in Underground Mining: Proceedings of the 7th International Mining Forum, Cracow - Szczyrk - Wieliczka, Poland, February 2006. CRC Press. ISBN 9780415889391.
  18. ^ a b Gunzburger, Yann; Merrien-Soukatchoff, Véronique; Senfaute, Gloria; Piguet, Jack-Pierre; Guglielmi, Yves (2004). "Field investigations, monitoring and modeling in the identification of rock fall causes". In Lacerda, W.; Ehrlich, Mauricio; Fontoura, S. A. B.; Sayão, A. S. F. (eds.). Landslides: Evaluation & Stabilization/Glissement de Terrain: Evaluation et Stabilisation, Set of 2 Volumes: Proceedings of the Ninth International Symposium on Landslides, June 28 -July 2, 2004 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Vol. 1. CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-4822-6288-9.
  19. ^ a b Schmidt, Dietmar; Kühn, Friedrich (2007). "3. Remote sensing: 3.1 Aerial Photography". In Knödel, Klaus; Lange, Gerhard; Voigt, Hans-Jürgen (eds.). Environmental Geology: Handbook of Field Methods and Case Studies. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 978-3-540-74671-3.
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  21. ^ "941.202 Einheitenverordnung" (in German). Archived from the original on 22 May 2020.
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