AskDefine | Define hogshead

Dictionary Definition



1 a British unit of capacity for alcoholic beverages
2 a large cask especially one holding 63 gals

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. An English measure of capacity for liquids, containing 63 wine gallons, or about 52 1/2 imperial gallons; a half pipe.
  1. Quotations
    • 1882: Again, by 28 Hen. VIII, cap. 14, it is re-enacted that the tun of wine should contain 252 gallons, a butt of Malmsey 126 gallons, a pipe 126 gallons, a tercian or puncheon 84 gallons, a hogshead 63 gallons, a tierce 41 gallons, a barrel 31.5 gallons, a rundlet 18.5 gallons. — James Edwin Thorold Rogers, A History of Agriculture and Prices in England, p. 205.
  2. A large cask or barrel, of indefinite contents; esp. one containing from 100 to 140 gallons.

Extensive Definition

A hogshead is a large cask of liquid (less often, of a food commodity). More specifically, it refers to a specified volume, measured in Imperial units, primarily applied to alcoholic beverages such as wine, ale, or cider.
A tobacco hogshead was used in American colonial times to transport and store tobacco. It was a very large wooden barrel. A standardized hogshead measured 48 inches long and 30 inches in diameter at the head. Fully packed with tobacco, it weighed about 1000 pounds.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) notes that the hogshead was first standardized by an act of Parliament in 1423, though the standards continued to vary by locality and content. For example, the OED cites an 1897 edition of Whitaker's Almanack, which specified the number of gallons of wine in a hogshead varying by type of wine: claret 46 gallons, port 57, sherry 54; and Madeira 46. The American Heritage Dictionary claims that a hogshead can consist of anything from 62.5 to 140 (presumably U.S.) gallons.
Eventually, a hogshead of wine came to be 63 gallons, while a hogshead of beer or ale is 54 gallons.
A hogshead was also used as unit of measurement for sugar in Louisiana for most of the 19th century. Plantations were listed in sugar schedules as having produced x number of hogsheads of sugar or molasses.
hogshead in German: Oxhoft
hogshead in Dutch: Okshoofd
hogshead in Norwegian: Oksehode
hogshead in Polish: Okseft
hogshead in Russian: Хогсхед
hogshead in Swedish: Hogshead
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