In the US, there are 2000 pounds in a ton. “But wait, which kind of ton?” you might say. And you’d be right. Because there are 11 different versions of a ton in different fields and geographies around the world. Be sure to read the rest of this article just in case you ever hear the question, “How many pounds are in a ton?”, you’ll have the most elaborate and accurate answer known to humanity!
Let’s dig in and take a look at all the different forms of the measurement of ton.
What’s a Ton and How Do You Convert Tons to Pounds?
In the United States, a ton is simply a unit of weight or measurement of mass that is equal to 2,000 pounds.
To convert tons to pounds, multiply the number of tons by 2,000. For example, if you have 3 tons, you would multiply 3 x 2,000 to get 6,000 pounds. Pretty easy, right?
Tons Around the World: The Difference Between Short Ton, a Long Ton, and a Tonne (Metric Ton)
Now we get a bit more into the nitty gritty. There are actually 3 common uses for the word ton and it usually depends on what part of the world you’re living in. The three common versions of the measurement are a short ton, a long ton, and a metric ton (or tonne).
Here’s what they mean:
Short Ton: A short ton is a unit of mass equal to 2,000 pounds (907.18474 kilograms). It’s commonly used in the United States, Canada, and the UK for measuring a variety of really, really big things.
Long Ton: A long ton is a unit of mass equal to 2,240 pounds (1,016.0469088 kilograms). It’s primarily used in the UK, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries for measuring large quantities of materials and other large heavy objects.
Tonne (Metric Ton): A tonne (also known as a metric ton) is a unit of mass equal to 1,000 kilograms (2,204.6 pounds). It’s the standard unit of mass used in almost every country in the world except those few that still use the Imperial system, such as the United States. If we’re speaking officially, this is the “right” version of a ton that’s used in countries that follow the metric system.
Conversions for Short Ton, Long Ton, and Metric Ton (Tonne)
- 1 short ton = 0.89 long tons = 0.9 metric tons (tonnes) = 2,000 pounds = 907 kilograms
- 1 long ton = 1.12 short tons = 1.01 metric tons (tonnes) = 2,240 pounds = 1,016 kilograms
- 1 metric ton (tonne) = 0.98 long tons = 1.1 short tons = 2,204 pounds = 1,000 kilograms
So if you look at it logically, 1 long ton is heavier than a metric ton which is heavier than a short ton!
Why do so many versions of ton exist?
The origin of the word “ton” is from the Old English “tunne” which referred to a large barrel or cask, and it was used to measure volume. Over time, the word “tunne” was replaced by ‘”tonne”, and eventually “ton”, which came to mean a large quantity or measure of something.
Those barrels and casks mentioned above? Guess what they held; wine! And even though the word used to represent volume and not mass, eventually people figured one large standard casket of wine (a tunne) could hold around 2,000 pounds of liquid. And that’s how the word transferred from meaning volume to weight instead.
As for why there’s such a thing as a short ton and a long tun, that was due to geography, culture, and, of course, wine! Way back in the colonial days of the US, they still followed all of the UK’s measurement systems. So, back then, 1 ton was considered to be 20 hundredweights of mass (an old timey measurement most people don’t use anymore). Over in the US, the hundredweight evolved into equalling 100 pounds, but back in the UK, 1 hundredweight continued to weigh 8 stones, which is 8 x 14 pounds and = 112 pounds.
That’s because, in the UK, they use a measurement called “stone”, where 1 stone = 14 pounds!
Later, the metric system was adopted with its base of 10 and you ended up with the metric ton (tonne), which is a solid and easy-to-understand 1,000 kilograms, which is 1,000 grams.
What Other Kinds of Tons Exist?
If we wander out into the great blue sea for a moment, we’ll see a lot more versions of the word ton. For instance, the “Deadweight Ton (or Tonnage)” is a unit of measurement used to measure a vessel‘s cargo-carrying capacity. This is usually expressed as the weight of the cargo, plus the weight of fuel, stores, passengers, and crew.
The “Ton Class”, on the other hand, is the size category of a vessel, usually determined by its deadweight tonnage.
And then we have “displacement ton”, which is the weight of water displaced by the vessel when it is afloat. This is the vessel‘s actual weight, which is usually greater than its “deadweight tonnage”.
All of these measurements are important for determining a vessel‘s size, capacity, and overall performance. But they sure are confusing, aren’t they?
But wait, there’s more!
Tons in Mining
If you ever want to be in the mining industry, you’ll have to wrap your head around two more versions of the word “ton”.
A dry ton or dry tonne is a unit of weight measurement used for large quantities of material. It’s equal to 2,000 pounds or 907.185 kilograms. Not too bad.
But on the other hand, an assay ton is a standard quantity (not technically a unit of measurement) used to test samples of precious metals. A short assay ton is 29 1⁄6 grams and a long assay ton is 32 2⁄3 grams.
For a quick explanation why, Wikipedia says: “These amounts bear the same ratio to a milligram as a short or long ton bears to a troy ounce. Therefore, the number of milligrams of a particular metal found in a sample weighing one assay ton gives the number of troy ounces of metal contained in a ton of ore.”
Tons in Energy Usage
If we vroom over to the science of energy section, we’ll find two more versions of the word ton, yet again! In this case, a ton is used as a measurement of the output of energy rather than weight.
Tonne of Oil Equivalent: This is used as a standard of energy which translates to the amount of energy created from burning one tonne of crude oil. A similar standard is “tonne of coal equivalent”, which instead of oil, measures the amount of energy from burning a tonne of coal.
Ton of TNT: If you were to blow up a small amount of TNT (or even a nuclear bomb or set off an earthquake), you’d find this version of ton, which again represents energy output rather than weight. A (metric) ton of TNT is equal to 4.184 gigajoules, or the energy released from exploding 1,000 kilograms (1 metric ton) of TNT.
Or, on a much smaller scale, every gram of detonated TNT releases 4.184 kilojoules of energy.
Phew, this is getting complicated.
Measuring Cold with Tons
Lastly, we have one more version of the word ton, and it’s used to measure heat, but in a different way. This one is for refrigeration and air conditioners!
It’s called the refrigeration ton (RT), or ton of refrigeration (TR or TOR). This unit is more common in North America and represents how fast heat can transfer (which makes things colder if the heat is leaving). 1 ton of refrigeration = the rate of heat transfer that can melt 1 short ton (2,000 lb; 907 kg) of pure ice at 0 °C (32 °F) in 24 hours!
If all this tonnage has thrown you in a loop, don’t worry. Generally speaking, a ton means around 2,000 pounds. If you’re in different countries, just be aware of what standard of measurement your country uses and if you’re talking in an official capacity or not. If you’re at a university or the government or at a business in US, you’re probably safe going with the American version, if in any normal country that uses the metric system and at a place of work, go with the metric version. For conversation, on the other hand, that largely depends on who you’re talking to, if they used the metric system when they were young, and of course, what country they come from!