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Weighing devices are among man’s most important inventions. The earliest civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley had uniform systems of weights and measures. The history of commerce can be traced back to these systems. Balances were in use in Mesopotamia as early as 4000 BC. For modern man, weighing and measuring play an essential role in our daily lives. Shortly after birth we are weighed, and from that point on, our bodies, the food we eat and all the products we use are weighed and measured at some stage in their development.
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scale (noun) weighing instrument, early 15c.; earlier “pan of a balance” (late 14c.); earlier still “drinking cup” (c. 1200), from Old Norse skal “bowl, drinking cup,” in plural, “weighing scale” from a noun derivative of Proto-Germanic *skæla “split, divide” (source also of Old Norse skel “shell,” Old English scealu, Old Saxon skala “a bowl (to drink from),” Old High German scala, German Schale “a bowl, dish, cup,” Middle Dutch scale, Dutch schaal “drinking cup, bowl, shell, scale of a balance”), from PIE root *skel- (1) “to cut” (see scale (n.1)).
The connecting sense seems to be of half of a bivalve (“split”) shell used as a drinking cup or a pan for weighing. But according to Paulus Diaconus the “drinking cup” sense originated from a supposed custom of making goblets from skulls (see skull). Related: Scales. This, as a name for the zodiac constellation Libra, is attested in English from 1630s.