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The short answer to this question is 2000 pounds, but that may not be the complete answer that you’re looking for. The word “ton” is most commonly used to refer to a unit of mass, likely the short ton, but it changes depending on the part of the world, the context, and the time period. In actuality, “ton” can refer to many different measurements, including not just mass, but volume, energy, and power as well.

Measurements of Mass:

Short Ton (US)

When one refers to the ton in the United States, they typically mean the “short ton”, as it’s called, where one short ton is equal to 2,000 pounds.

Long Ton (UK)

When one refers to the ton in the United Kingdom or anywhere the Imperial System was formally used or is still used, they may be referring to the “long ton”, as it’s called, where one long ton is equal to 2,240 pounds.

Tonne (mainly UK)

A “tonne” (pronounced like ton) may also be called a Metric Ton or Megagram. This unit is used mainly in the United Kingdom, but also worldwide, and refers to 1,000 kilograms, which is equal to 2,204.6226 pounds.

Ton Shortweight and Ton Longweight

Now outdated terms, the ton shortweight and ton longweight were used in the iron industry in the 17th and 18th centuries. A ton shortweight is equal to 2,240 pounds and a ton longweight is equal to 2,400 pounds.

Deadweight Ton

A deadweight ton refers to a measurement of a ships carrying capacity, and it is typically understood in tonnes or long tons.

Harbour Ton

A harbour ton refers to 2000 pounds, or one short ton. This was a term typically used in 20th century South Africa.

Assay Ton

Abbreviated as AT, the assay ton doesn’t actually refer to a unit of measurement, but a quantity used for assaying ores of precious metals. There are two quantities—a short assay ton and a long assay ton. A short assay ton is equal to 29 1/6 grams and a long assay ton is equal to 32 2/3 grams.


tHM and MTHM refer to tonnes of heavy metals, and MTU refers to tonnes of uranium. These terms are most commonly used inside of nuclear power plants. THM is a steel industry abbreviation that refers to “tons/tonnes hot metal” and reflects the production amount of liquidized steel or iron.

Dry Tons and Wet Tons

Dry ton or dry tonne, while referring to the same mass value, is used to indicate a substance that is often wet but has been dried. A wet ton or wet tonne also refers to the same mass value but refers to a mixture in it’s natural wet state.

Measurements of Volume

Displacement Ton

Displacement of a ship is often represented in long tons. This is determined by measuring volume, rather than weight, of the water displaced. Displacement ton is abbreviated as DT, and typically refers to a unit of volume equaling 35 cubic feet. This is the approximate volume taken up by one ton of seawater. Salinity and temperature of seawater will cause this measurement to vary.

Water Ton

The term water ton is mainly used in Great Britain, and especially to reflect petroleum statistics. It is 224 imperial gallons, the volume occupied by 1 long ton (2,240 pounds) of water.

Freight Ton

One freight ton (also called one measurement ton) is equal to 40 cubic feet, though it has had many different definitions throughout history. If a cargo is heavier than saltwater, the actual tonnage is used, but if it is lighter than saltwater, freight is calculated by using measurement tons of 40 cubic feet. The freight ton can also represent the volume of a truck, train, or other freight vehicle. It is commonly abbreviated as M/T, MT, or MTON. Due to these abbreviations, it is sometimes confused with the megatonne, a unit equal to 1 million tonnes.

PC/UMS Net Ton

The PC/UMS Net Ton refers to the Panama Canal/Universal Measurement System Net Ton, which is equivalent to 100 cubic feet of capacity. This measurement is based on a mathematical formula to calculate a vessel’s net volume.

Measurements of Energy & Power

Ton of TNT

The Ton of TNT is a unit of energy equivalent to 4.184 gigjoules. This is approximately the amount of energy released in the detonation of one metric ton (1,000 kilograms) of TNT. For each gram of TNT that is exploded, 4184 joules (or 1,000 calories) of energy is released.

Tonne of Oil Equivalent

A tonne of oil equivalent (or sometimes ton of oil equivalent) is abbreviated as toe. This value is a reflection of the amount of energy released by burning one tonne (1,000 kilograms) of crude oil.

Tonne of Coal Equivalent

A tonne of coal equivalent (or sometimes ton of coal equivalent) is abbreviated as tce. This value is a reflection of the amount of energy released by burning one tonne (1,000 kilograms) of coal.

Ton of Refrigeration

When someone uses the term “ton” when talking about refrigeration or air conditioning, they’re most likely talking about a measurement of the rate of heat absorption. A refrigeration ton is often abbreviated to RT. In North America, a ton of refrigeration is typically 12,000 BTU/h (3,517 W). This dates back to when the installation of one mechanical ton of refrigeration replaced the daily delivery of one ton of ice.

Informal/Slang Tons

In many places around the world, ton is used informally as a slang word, to mean “a lot” of something.
Ex. “I have a ton of baseball cards.” or “my dog weighs a ton.”
In these sentences, the speaker is using hyperbolic speak to exaggerate for effect. They don’t really have 2,000 pounds of baseball cards, nor does their dog weigh 2,000 pounds. They just mean they have a lot of baseball cards, and their dog is very heavy.
Sometimes, a ton may be used to refer to 100 of something. This is most common in Britain and can be used to refer to anything from price to miles per hour.
Ex. “Lenny just did a ton on the motorway.” Means the same as “Lenny was driving 100 miles per hour on the motorway.”
In Finish, the word “tonni” can be used to refer to 1000 of something, most commonly money.
In Dutch, when speaking of money, a ton can be used to refer to 100,000. This dates back to at least the 18th century.

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