Meaning of ΜΕΤΡΩ ΧΡΩ

The phrase “ΜΕΤΡΩ ΧΡΩ” appears in the seal of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. I was curious as to what it means, but I have not been able to find anything anywhere. It’s Greek, and besides something that seems close to “metric,” I have no idea what this means or why it’s there.

‘ΜΕΤΡΩ’ would be ‘I weigh/measure’. First person present active.
Google Translate thinks ‘ΧΡΩ’ means ‘colours’ but I’m not so sure - that should be ‘ΧΡΩM-something’ (as in Chrom-)

I’m betting the phrase means, ‘I measure, I weigh’. You could always email them and ask.

Pittacus of Mytiline (about 650 to 560 BC) said it, and his explanation is "“That is to use the measure in all things.” Which may imply something about “ΧΡΩ” meaning “spectrum.”

That means “color measure”. Refer to how close a certain color that is being used is to what the theoretical actual appearance of the color should be.

This page quotes a librarian at BIPM (the French acronym for the bureau) as follows:

Ok, on the one hand I would assume the librarian knows what he is talking about, on the other, assuming it’s in the Attic ancient Greek dialect, I don’t see how you could translate it like that, unless they dropped the iota from METRΩ for some reason.

I would think it reads: “I measure I declare”

Ad Pittacus, do you know the source? I couldn’t find the quote in any of the Pittacus listson the internet, but that might not mean much.

Liddell & Scott proved helpful.

Μέτρῳ metrō[sub]i[/sub] is the dative case of μέτρον *metron *‘a measure or rule; a standard’.

The verb χρῶ khrō is a contraction of χράον khraon, the present imperative of χράομαι *khraomai *‘to use’, medium or deponent form of χράω khraō ‘to give what is needful’. It’s like saying that to use something means to do what is needful for oneself with it. Used with the dative case.

So Colophon already called it: it simply means ‘use the (standard) measure’. Nothing to do with colors.

Hint: The Modern Greek functionality of Google Translate is only slightly useful for Ancient Greek. The two languages are approximately as different as Latin and Italian.

Well, color me impressed with the informative answers!

Me, too. Thanks so much.

But what happened to the iota? Did they just leave it out for aesthetic reasons? That seems kinda imprecise for an organisation dedicated to measuring.

What iota?

To translate it as ‘use the measure’ it needs to be Μέτρῳ with a iota at the end, here written as a subscript, but on the seal it reads METRΩ without a iota on the end, meaning it isn’t a dative.

It’s all greek to… oh nevermind. I’m impressed too.


Could a subscript also be written in the larger letters? If so, maybe it disappeared over time, being so small.

Wikipedia has a page on it which is correct as far as I can see and I’m to lazy to summarize,sorry.