What is the abbreviation for tablespoon?

tablespoon

(© Oleksii Akhrimenko – stock.adobe.com)

Abbreviations are intended to be a short, clear, concise way of conveying information. The most common use cases for abbreviations are charts, tables, instructions, recipes, coins, cities, states, and scientific terminology. For baking and recipes perhaps the most important abbreviation there is that for a tablespoon. While some may easily be able to discern the differences between it and other forms of measurement, it is still a large area of confusion and questioning. Below is the history of the tablespoon abbreviation, commonly confused abbreviations, and why it is important to keep track of what abbreviations are for what unit of measure.

History

The tablespoon as a unit of measure has an interesting history. In early Europe and parts of Canada the tablespoon was originally defined as the largest spoon present in a proper table setting. While the tablespoon had early history in the table etiquette of early europe it didn’t start being used as a unit of measures till apothecaries began using it. A tablespoon was equivalent to 4 drams in apothecary measure, now equivalent to .5 fluid ounces. This was then carried through history and within the United States the measure of a tablespoon is still equal to .5 fluid ounces. One interesting thing to note is that a tablespoon is not a universal unit of measure. In Australia the interpretation of a tablespoon is one that is equal to 2/3 of a fluid ounce. It is extremely important to be aware of these differences as recipes online may refer to the United States definition while another may be based on the Australian definition. Ensure you know which definition is being used for the recipe.

Similar Abbreviations

The abbreviation for tablespoon is Tbsp.. It is important to note that the abbreviation for this unit of measure is capitalized. The reason for this is to distinguish tablespoon from teaspoon with an abbreviation of tsp.. The upper case “T” is utilized to give a quick and easy reference to which unit of measure is larger. A tablespoon is approximately three times the size of a teaspoon for the United States tablespoon and four times the size of a teaspoon for the Australian tablespoon. The key differentiators between the two similar abbreviations is the upper cast “T” and the letter “b” both sound in tablespoon.

Measurement

With any unit of measure it is important to keep track of what units you are using and what units you will need to use. Specifically with baking, it is important to not mix up the different units of measure when reading a recipe. A tablespoon which is the largest spoon measurement can be written as tablespoon, Tbsp., Tb.,  and even abbreviated to simply T.. The next spoon measurement is teaspoon which can be written as tspn., tsp., or even t.. The main distinction is the capital between the spoon measurements. The last spoon measurement is a dessertspoon which doesn’t have a major abbreviation. It is in between the size of a tablespoon and teaspoon. Other important measurements for baking are cup, pint, quart, gallon, and fluid ounce.

Overall the abbreviation for tablespoon is an important innovation to create a fast and efficient way of communicating the unit of measure. From its early origin in historic European dinnerware, all the way to its current day usage of a unit of measure, the tablespoon has had an evolution in function and utilization. The tablespoon abbreviation is a very thoughtful abbreviation that not only is able to be discerned from other spoon measurements, but is also able to convey the size relative to other units of measure by the utilization of a capital “T”.

         
 

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