One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A unit of weight, used chiefly for precious metals in the Islamic world, varying with place and period but now generally taken to be approximately 4.25 grams (65.6 grains); a coin of this weight. Also in Iran: a unit of weight equivalent to approximately 4.6 grams (71 grains).
Mid 16th century; earliest use found in Richard Eden (c1520–1576), translator. Ultimately from Arabic miṯqāl, lit. ‘weight’, noun of instrument from ṯaqala (transitive) to weigh, probably variously (in the some forms) via Spanish, Portuguese, and French, (in the some forms) via Persian, Urdu, and Turkish, and (in the some forms) directly from Arabic. With the some forms compare Spanish metical, mitical, Portuguese matical, metical, mitical (10th cent. in form metcales (plural); 16th cent. in forms methecal, mitigal, matical; 17th cent. in form mithicali (plural)), French medical. With the some forms compare Persian mis̱qāl, Urdu mis̱qāl, Turkish miskal.
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