duim [Dutch and Russian]

Both words come from their language's word for thumb. Originally, such units of length were the width of the thumb measured at the base of the nail.

1

In the Netherlands, 20th century¹, the nederlandsche duim, the name given to the centimeter when the Netherlands adopted the metric system in 1820. = 1 centimeter = ¹⁄₁₀ palm = 10 streepen or lijn. In the 21st century the word is rarely used, and when it is, the English inch is often meant.

Before metrication, the duim = 12 lijn. It is hte principal subdivision of the voet, as the inch is of the foot. But the number of duim in a voet varied with location, and so did the length of the voet. Some examples²:

Length
of duim,
centimeters
Fraction
of voet
Name of voet Length
of voet,
centimeters
2.616221³ ¹⁄₁₂ rijnlandse voet 31.39465
after 1808
2.6 ¹⁄₁₁ Amsterdamsche voet 28.3133
2.5 ¹⁄₁₂ Blooische voet 30.1425
2.36 ¹⁄₁₂ Friesche scheepsvoet 28.379
2.46 ¹⁄₁₂ Friesche houtvoet; Deventersche voet 29.6
2.5 ¹⁄₁₂ Drentsche voet 29.452
2.4 ¹⁄₁₂ Graftsche & Schermerhornsche voet 28.6978
2.7 ¹⁄₁₀ Geldersche voet 271.947
2.45 ¹⁄₁₂ Groningsche voet 29.2197
2.4 ¹⁄₁₂ Hondsbossche & Rijpsche voet 28.523
2.8 ¹⁄₁₀ Lekkendijksche voet 27.970
2.7 ¹⁄₁₀ Nijmeegsche voet 27.2
2.6 ¹⁄₁₃ Puttensche voet (for work on dikes) 3.3831
2.6 ¹⁄₁₂ Schouwsche voet 31.0583
2.7 ¹⁄₁₀ Stichtsche & Utrechtsche voet 26.828

1. United Nations 1966.

2. W. C. H. Staring.
Staring's Lijst von all Binnen- en Buitenlandsche Maten, Gewichten und Munten… 3rd ed.
Schoonhoven: & W. N. Van Nooten, 1885.
Pages 4-6.

3. This figure taken from:
Handboekje, dienende ter herleiding van Maten en Gewigten. (Officiele Uitgave.)
Te 's Gravenhage en te Amsterdam: de Gebroeders van Cleef, 1819.
Page 21.

sources

duim thumb; (maat) inch.

Hippocrene Concise Dictionary. Dutch-English, English-Dutch Dictionary.
New York: Hippocrene Books, 2003? (Copyright by Elsevier in 1987.)

2

(дюйм diuim, plural diuimy.) In Russia, a unit of length, = 1 inch (2.54 centimeters). Sometimes romanized as duïme.

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