Category Archives: Idioms

The Truth about the Baker’s Dozen

Last week, I wrote about an epiphany experience wherein I speculated about the origins of the baker’s dozen.  Today I finally checked it out on the internet and in two places, found the below explanation:

The oldest known source and most probable origin for the expression “baker’s dozen” dates to the 13th century in one of the earliest English statutes, instituted during the reign of Henry III (r. 1216-1272), called the Assize of Bread and Ale. Bakers who were found to have shortchanged customers could be liable to severe punishment. To guard against the crude punishment of losing a hand to an axe, a baker would give 13 for the price of 12, to be certain of not being known as a cheat. Specifically, the practice of baking 13 items for an intended dozen was to prevent “short measure”, on the basis that one of the 13 could be lost, eaten, burnt or ruined in some way, leaving the baker with the original dozen. The practice could be seen in the guild codes of the Worshipful Company of Bakers in London.