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Gravitational force of attraction on an object, caused by the presence of a massive second object, such as the Earth or Moon. It is a consequence of Isaac Newton's universal law of gravitation, which states that the force of attraction between two objects is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. For this reason, objects of greater mass weigh more on the surface of the Earth. On the other hand, an object's weight on the Moon is about one-sixth of its weight on Earth, even though its mass remains the same, because the Moon has less mass and a smaller radius than the Earth and therefore exerts less gravitational force. Weight W is the product of an object's mass m and the acceleration of gravity g at the location of the object, or W = mg. Since weight is a measure of force rather than mass, the units of weight in the International System of Units are newtons (N). In common usage, weight is measured by the gram in the metric system and by the ounce and pound in the U.S. and British systems.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on weight, visit Britannica.com.