Compare drachm, drachma, drachmè, dramma, dirhem
In the United States, and formerly in other English-speaking countries, a unit of mass = 1/16 ounce avoirdupois = 27.343 75 grains = 1.771 845 195 312 5 grams. Symbol, dr or dr(av.). In the United States the dram continues to be used in such activities as reloading ammunition and weighing boxers. In the United Kingdom, the Weights and Measures Act of 1985 made the dram illegal in trade.
Two units of mass in English-speaking countries, 14th–20th centuries, both = 60 grains = 3.887 934 6 grams, but with different names:
In the United States, these units were called drams, but elsewhere they were usually called drachms (same pronunciation).
In United States apothecaries’ measure, a unit of liquid capacity, the fluid dram, ¹⁄8 of a U.S. fluid ounce, about 3.697 milliliters. Symbol, fl dr or f . This unit is not the same as the fluid drachm of Great Britain. See apothecaries' measure.
In England and the United States, a system for specifying the fineness of thrown silk yarn, such as silk sewing thread. In this system, a yarn’s fineness is the weight of 1,000 yards expressed in drams, for example, “Number 1 dram silk.”
In Cyprus, 19th century, a unit of mass, ¹⁄₄₀₀th of an oke, about 3.175 grams (about 0.112 ounces avoirdupois).
In Romania, 19th century, a unit of mass, ¹⁄₄₀₀th of an oca. See the chart for the unit's magnitude in various regions: .
In Persia, first quarter of the 20th century, the name given to the gram during the country’s conversion to the metric system.
A variable unit of capacity, the quantity of distilled alcoholic beverage drunk in one swallow. At the small end, it is thought of as 1/8th of a fluid ounce (definition 3 above), which is only 0.23 cubic inches or 3.70 milliliters, and seems highly unlikely. For comparison, the “shot” in the United States is 1½ fluid ounces. Notice that source 2, below, describes half a cubic inch as the capacity of a small dram glass.
Dram glasses have been made in England and Scotland since the 1600's; it ought to be possible to get a picture of the dram from the capacity of these glasses, some of which have capacities of 4 fluid ounces, about 120 milliliters. In a special but common stemless form, the firing glass, the heavy base facilitated pounding the glass on the table, to create a bang like a gunshot.
In Madras, India, the dram = 1/40th of a wine gallon = 5.775 cubic inches, about 94.6 milliliters.
Some typical dictionary definitions of the early 19th century:
DRAM, dram. s. In weight the eighth part of an ounce; a small quantity; such a quantity of distilled spirits as is usually drunk at once; spirits, distilled liquors.
A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language... First American Edition.
Philadelphia: Printed by Rudd and Bartram, 1803
DRAM, (dram') s. in weight the eighth part of an ounce; a small quantity; such a quantity of distilled spirits as is usually drank at once; spirits, distilled liquors.
TASTER, (ta'st-ur) s. one who takes the first essay of food; a dram cup.
A General Pronouncing and Explanatory Dictionary of the English Language... 9th edition.
London: Vernor and Rood; etc. , 1804.
Centilitre—Is the 100th part of the litre, equal to a small dram glass, equal in cubic measure to 5046/10000 of an inch.
James N. Taylor.
Sketch of the Geography, Political Economy, and Statistics of France...
Washington: Printed by Rapine and Elliot, published by Joseph Milligan, Georgetown, 1815.
As regards wines and spirits, the old wine gallon of 231 cubic inches is yet the standard in the Collector's office, though the “Imperial” gallon of Act 6, Geo. IV, cap. 74, which came into use in England, 1st January 1826, is 277.24 cubic inches, and is used in the Commissariat and Medical departments. The “dram” of the town of Madras is 1/40th of the old “wine gallon” or 5.775 cubic inches.
Manual of the Administration of the Madras Presidency…
Madras: Printed by E. Keys, at the Government Press, 1885.
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Last revised: 6 April 2012.