An English unit of liquid capacity = 2 firkins, = 16 gallons of ale or 18gallons of beer before 1688; between 1688 and 1803, 17 gallons either of beer or ale; after 1824, 18 imperial gallons. Abbreviation, “kils.”¹. chart showing relationships between English units of liquid capacity

1. See the brewer's invoice reproduced in North-Eastern Breweries, Ltd. v. Gibson (1904), The English and Empire Digest, vol. 44, page 132.



The kilderkin 16. gallons.

these very vessels [..] had theyr limitation of wright, [that is, a maximum tare weight] in so much that

The firkin should wey 6. pound 6. ounces.

The halfe barrell or kilderkin 13.[...]

William Harrison.
An Historical Description of the Iland of Britane, with a brief Rehersall of the Nature and Qualities of the People of England, and such Commodities as are to be found in the Same.
Published in Holinshed' Chronicles, vol 1. 1577.
Book 3, chapter 24, page 131.
The passage only appears in the 1577 edition, not in that of 1587.


Kilderkin (1391, in the non-Eng. context of E. Derby's Exped., 1410, in Eng. context), a cask for liquids, fish, &c., of a definite capacity, a cask of this size filled with some commodity; the original form was kin-, as M[iddle] E[nglish] kynerkin, kynderkin, ad[aptation of] M[iddle] Du[tch] kinderkin, more commonly kindeken, kinneken, also kyntken, kijn-, kimmekijn (see Kempkin, Kinkin, p. 56), the fourth part of a tun; the change of kin- to kil- is apparently peculiar to English, and is found already in 1392.

E[van] C[lifford] Llewellyn.
The Influence of Low Dutch on the English Vocabulary.
Publications of the Philological Society, 12.
London: Oxford University Press, 1936.
Page 55.

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