SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 1988

The Weight of Mass or the Mess of Weight


The ambiguity of the term weight, meaning either the force of gravity or mass, is analyzed. It is shown that through the historical development of technical understanding the distinction between mass and force of gravity has been obscure. The confusion is further aggravated by the use of units with the same name for either mass or force. Contemporary technology is vulnerable to errors and misunderstandings due to the ambiguity of the term weight. SI uses clearly distinguishing unit names for mass and force, that is, kilogram and newton. It is recommended that the term weight be avoided and if used be restricted to mean force of gravity.

Author Information

Gat, U
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN
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Developed by Committee: E02
Pages: 45–48
DOI: 10.1520/STP29549S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5059-1
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-1183-7