baker's dozen

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Fresh loaves of bread in a market. The term baker’s dozen is thought to originate from the old practice of bakers adding a thirteenth loaf of bread to a batch of twelve loaves to avoid selling underweight bread.

Possibly from the former practice of bakers adding a thirteenth loaf of bread to a batch of twelve loaves in order to avoid punishment for accidentally selling underweight bread.[1]



baker's dozen (plural baker's dozens or bakers' dozens)

  1. (idiomatic) Thirteen; a group of thirteen. [from 1590s]
    • 1696, William Nicholls, “The Preface to the Reader”, in A Conference with a Theist. Wherein I. Are Shewn the Absurdities in the Pretended Eternity of the World. II. The Difficulties in the Mosaick Creation are Cleared. III. The Lapse of Mankind is Defended, against the Objections of Archæologiæ Philosophicæ, The Oracles of Reason, &c., London: Printed by T[homas] W[arren] for Francis Saunders at the Blue-Anchor in the New-Exchange; and Tho[mas] Bennet at the Half-Moon in St. Paul's Church-Yard, OCLC 890008165:
      [L]et him caſt his Eye upon the laſt Page of that Book, where Mr. Blount has tranſlated a Quotation out of Scaliger de Emend. brought by the Author of the Præadamitæ; now he tranſlates Octingenties octagies, not eight hundred and eighty, but eight hundred and eightſcore; as if the Romans had uſed to reckon by ſcores. He might altogether as well, have made them number by Bakers-Dozens.
    • [1702, [Abel] Boyer, “A Baker’s Dozen”, in Dictionnaire Royal, François et Anglois. Le Francois Tiré des Dictionnaires de Richelet, Furetiere, Tachard, de l’Academie Françoise, & des Remarques de Vaugelas, Menage & Bouhours. Divisé en Deux Parties [Royal Dictionary, French and English. The French Taken from the Dictionaries of Richelet, Furetiere, Tachard, the French Academy, & the Remarks of Vaugelas, Menage & Bouhours. Divided into Two Parts], volume I, The Hague: Chez Adrian Moetjens, Marchand Libraire près la Cour, à la Librairie Françoise, OCLC 906825706:
      A Baker's Dozen, Treize dans la Douzaine.]
    • 1787 August, “Irregular Ode on His Majesty’s Birth Day”, in The Gentleman’s and London Magazine: Or, Monthly Chronologer, Dublin: Printed by John Exshaw, OCLC 702676867, page 439, column 2:
      What! though by accident we've loſt / Of provinces a baker's dozen; / More bleſſings has our King produc'd, / By our good Queen his German couſin—
    • 1808 December, “Art. V. Poems, by Mary Leadbeater, (late Shackleton,) to which is Prefixed Her Translation of the 13th Book of the Æneid; with the Latin Original, Written in the 15th Century, by Maffæus. 8vo. pp. 419. 8s. Boards. Dublin, Keene; London, Longman and Co. &c. 1808.”, in The Monthly Review; or Literary Journal, Enlarged, volume LVII, London: Sold by T[homas] Becket, bookseller, in Pall Mall, OCLC 901376714, page 372:
      Maffæus [Maffeo Vegio] seems to have thought that the liberal mind of Virgil could never have been satisfied with giving his readers less than a baker's dozen for their money, and therefore he added a thirteenth to the numbers of the Æneid, such as he imagined the Mantuan would himself have written if he had lived to perfect his own design.
    • [1823 July 5, “The Petition of a Baker’s Daughter”, in The Adventurer of the Nineteenth Century, volume XIII, London: Printed for Knight and Lacey. And sold by Henry Holloway, OCLC 503892476, page 196, column 2:
      Well, what do you think I'll give you? Why, fourteen kisses, and that's a baker's dozen you know; and so no more at present, from yours till I'm married, [] [I]n the disposal of her baker's dozens, she is admonished not to be profuse; and, moveover, not to be any body's till she is married, not even her well-wisher's.]
    • [1839], chapter I, in The Factory Lad. Or, The Life of Simon Smike; Exemplifying the Horrors of White Slavery, London: Printed and published by Thomas White, 59, Wych Street, Strand, OCLC 18150891, page 10, column 1:
      When some half dozen of bakers' dozens of constables are to be created, is it not very tiresome that a magistrate shall sit in an easy arm chair, in a snug room, and before a roaring fire, whilst the oath is read to each, and whilst each kisses the book, until the moisture of their breath has saturated with damp, the sheep or calf skin in which the book is packed up? There is something very tedious and unpleasant in all this, and great praise is due to the steward of Squire Screw, for having invented the means by which such annoying forms may be set aside.
    • 1921 April 16, Achmed Abdullah, “Framed at the Benefactor’s Club”, in Detective Story Magazine; republished in Fear and Other Stories from the Pulps, [Holicong, Pa.?]: Wildside Press, 2005, →ISBN, chapter IV (In His Pocket), page 104:
      "[…] But the police have an idea that I committed—" / "What—for the love of Mike?" / "Murder!" / "Good heavens!" / "And that isn't all, Bob. They've a couple of bakers' dozens of witnesses, all cocked and primed to swear to it!"
    • 2009, Tony Hyland, “A Baker’s Dozen”, in The Bread Book: Multiplying and Dividing (Mathematics Readers, Number and Operations; level 4), Huntington Beach, Calif.: Teacher Created Materials, →ISBN, pages 22–23:
      Around the thirteenth century, bakes began to add an extra loaf to every dozen. They did not want to be accused of cheating their customers. So 13 items has become known as a baker's dozen. [] Today, some bakers still bake bread in "baker's dozens."
  2. (Cockney rhyming slang) A cousin.
    • 2015 February, Kevin Sylvester, Neil Flambé and the Bard’s Banquet (Neil Flambé Capers; 5), 1st paperback edition, New York, N.Y.: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, →ISBN, page 65:
      "Before I agree to help you and your baker's dozen over there …" Rose nodded at Larry. / "It means cousin," Larry said. / "Before I say yes to helping, I would like a low-risk, up-front agreement."


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  1. ^ Gary Martin (1997–), “Baker's dozen”, in The Phrase Finder, retrieved 13 September 2017.

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