We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Where Did the Term “Horsepower” Come From?

Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

You might not be as strong as an ox, but you could argue that you are as strong as a horse – in a sense. According to LiveScience, an average healthy human is capable of producing 1 horsepower of work. That sounds like a lot, right? Well, the truth is, one average healthy horse can produce about 15 horsepower.

If that all sounds confusing, blame steam engine pioneer James Watt, who coined the term "horsepower" in the 1700s as a way to boast about the strength of his inventions. Accuracy wasn't so important, apparently. Watt used simple observations to estimate how much work a horse could produce – about 33,000 foot-pounds per minute – and compared it with his powerful steam engines.

Watt was so revered that no one bothered to question his estimate, and thus the word "horsepower" became part of common vernacular, and is still used today (an average car has around 170-190 horsepower). It might not be horse sense, but it was great for business.

Watt a guy:

  • James Watt made his first foray into steam power by experimenting with his mother's cooking pots as a child.

  • James Watt also invented the micrometer, a precise measuring device still in use today.

  • Many business owners refused to pay Watt royalties for his steam engine, relying on older, less-efficient engines instead.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By dimchild — On Jan 08, 2022

The average car today has 170 - 190 hp? Where did they get that? Maybe in the US. In Europe, and I guess the rest of the world, it should between 100 - 140.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.