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Ancient Heart of the Blackdowns

Glossary of Money Terms - Official and Slang

The definitions, meanings and origins of British and American official and slang terms for money.

Page Contents:

British Money - Pre-decimalization:

Britain changed to decimal currency on 15 February 1971. Under the old "LSD or Pounds, Shillings and Pence" system there had been 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings (240 pence) in a pound. After decimalization there were 100 "New Pence" in a pound.

There are strong rumours that the 1971 Labour government was advised to make the principal unit equivalent to ten old shillings, rather than the pound (twenty old shillings). Ten old shillings would have been sub-divided into 100 new pence. Apparently, the government could not agree on a suitable name for the ten shilling unit: Traditional British currency names such as "Noble" or "Royal" were especially unacceptable to this government!

After decimalization, in spite of officially being worth 2.4 old pennies, rapid inflation meant that one new penny soon bought less than one old penny had. Perhaps this inflation would have been less rapid if the ten shilling unit had been adopted?

A Commemorative Set of 1953 Coronation Coins
This set shows the British coins in circulation before decimalization.
Photo of coronation money set
Click here for a Larger View

Half farthing:

½ farthing. Small bronze coin, minted from 1830s to 1850s and used mainly overseas. Recently, I was surprised to find one dated 1844 in a drawer. Other coins included quarter and third farthing.


¼ penny. Small bronze coin. Withdrawn.


½ penny. Small bronze coin.


Until modern times, the base unit of currency in Britain and the chief every-day coin. Originally silver. Later a large bronze coin.

Twopence (Tuppence):

2 pence. Silvery coin. Withdrawn.

Threepenny Bit (Thrupenny Bit, Thrup'ny Piece):

3 pence. Formerly a small silver coin, later a small thick 12-sided brass coin. Withdrawn. Unpopular with some people, but welcomed by children as a gift from kind Aunts. I recently found one which had been wedged under the boiler installed in my house in 1968, to stop it from wobbling.


4 pence. Silvery coin. Long withdrawn. Price of a short Hackney Carriage ride in early Victorian London. Also means a trifling amount.


6 pence. Tanner. Popular small silvery coin, often hidden as a gift in Christmas puddings. Replaced by the 2½ new pence coin.


12 pence. Bob. Small silvery coin. Replaced by the 5 new pence coin.
By coincidence, the Anglo-Saxon scilling had also been worth 5 silver pennies.


2 shillings. Large silvery coin. Replaced by the 10 new pence coin.


2 shillings and 6 pence. Half a dollar. Large silvery coin.


4 shillings. Large silvery coin. Withdrawn.


5 shillings. Large silvery ceremonial coin.
Note. The modern decimal crown has a face value of £5.

10 shilling note:

10 shillings. Paper note replaced by the 7-sided 50 new pence piece.


10 shillings. Small gold coin. Rarely used.


£1 or 20 shillings or 240 old pennies. Since decimalization, a gold coloured coin worth 100 new pence. See also: Pound Sterling

Pound note:

£1. Paper note replaced by the modern £1 coin.


20 shillings. Small gold coin. Rarely used.


21 shillings. Small gold coin. Rarely used. Term still used in horse racing and auctions.

Slang Terms and Lore Involving British Money:

Some of the many slang terms used, often to gain an advantage over outsiders.

(Budget) Deficit (See also, Debt & Golden Rule):

Difference between what the government treasury receives (eg. in taxes), and what it spends, usually over a defined period such as one financial year.

(National) Debt (See also, Deficit & Golden Rule):

Total amount owed to creditors. A serious burden when excessive, but long-term loans (such as UK Gilts) to stable responsible governments play an important role in modern economies: The reliable, although modest, interest payments on UK Gilts used to fund long-term schemes such as private pension annuities. Damage to the market in UK Gilts, first by not issuing new long-term Gilts & later by "Quantitive Easing" (printing money, thereby reducing the value of Gilts) has severely damaged parts of the UK economy.

Golden Rule (See also, Debt & Deficit):

Government income & expenditure vary with time: In "cycles." The idea of the Golden Rule was to "balance the books" (the government's budget) over the cycle of one Parliament, rather than over a single financial year. This was used to justify extra spending on "investment" which created a (supposedly temporary) budget Deficit.

However in practice, too much of this "investment" was actually used to fund extra government expenditure; and the recovery hoped for later in the cycle, never materialised. The extra government expenditure led to much higher government Deficits and to a much increased government Debt.

Big Bang Day:

27th October 1986, the day when the London Stock Exchange changed from its previous "open-outcry" method of trading to electronic screen-based trading. On the same day, many financial activities were deregulated.

Boom and Bust:

Unfortunate tendency of the modern British economy to exhibit periods of rapid expansion (often driven by high consumer spending, often largely on imported goods) followed by periods of rapid decline.

To Sell Short:

To sell currency or shares you don't yet own, in the hope of being able to buy them more cheaply before being found out. A risky/profitable (ethical?) financial wheeze which can work when prices and values are falling. Can force prices and values still lower.

Bull Market:

Period of general optimism and rising stock market prices.

Bear Market:

Period of general pessimism and flat or falling stock market prices.

Market Correction:

Return of sanity. Normally a sudden traumatic downward movement of prices.

Negative Equity:

Situation after a correction in the housing market when many homes are worth less than the loans being used to buy them. In recent times, inflation has overcome negative equity fairly quickly.

Mortgaged to the Hilt:

In massive debt.

Asset Rich, Cash Poor:

To be apparently rich on paper, but have no money for everyday needs. Now more common following the rapid increase in the paper value of people's houses.

"Haven't got a Sou:"

Have no money. The Sol or Sou was a low value French coin. (From the Roman Solidus.)

Gnomes of Zurich:

IMF executives and/or Swiss Bankers. Insult. UK 1960s and 1970s Labour governments blamed their actions and loan conditions.

Teenage Scribblers:

International currency traders and/or analysts. Insult. UK 1980s and 1990s Conservative governments blamed their actions.


UK currency. Official collective term.

The pound in your pocket:

A fallacy that the value of everyday money is unaffected by the international money markets. Claim by the 1960s UK Labour government, that the spending power of people's personal money would not be affected by the devaluation .... until after the next election.

A run on the pound:

Sterling currency crisis. Event when international currency trading threatens the relative value of Sterling.

GDP, Gross Domestic Product. (See also, GNP):

Measure of a country's economic activity within its borders. Approx.: Private Consumption + Gross Investment + Government Spending + (Exports - Imports). But, all of these figures are open to interpretations and distortions. GDP disguises government debt and rewards government spending, so is popular with some politicians. Perhaps this accounts for much of the reported growth in the UK's economy during the early years of the 21st century?

GNP, Gross National Product. (See also, GDP):

Usually, a measure of the economic activity of enterprises owned by a country's citizens, where ever they are located. This definition excludes any local production of foreign-owned enterprises, but includes any production of overseas enterprises owned by citizens of a country. GNP can be a more accurate guide to the wealth of a country.

Recession (See also, Depression):

When you lose your job. A period of economic decline, often seen as a normal part of an economic cycle. Journalists often use the definition: Decline in GDP for two or more consecutive quarters.

Depression (See also, Recession):

When I lose my job! A slump. A prolonged period of low investment and high unemployment, as during the 1930s.

Poll Tax:

Capitation tax: A tax levied on each adult. Very unpopular when introduced during the reign of King Richard II. Led to the "Peasants' Revolt" of 1381. During the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher's UK government tried to introduce the "Community Charge" – quickly dubbed the "Poll Tax" – to replace the "Rates." (A tax based on the value of the house.) Eventually, the government gave in to protests and replaced it with the even less satisfactory "Council Tax."

In USA, means a tax to be paid before one can vote. (Sometimes used to rig elections by dissuading "the wrong people" from voting.)

Ship Tax:

Special tax levied to raise money for the British Royal Navy. King Charles I levied ship tax.

Stealth Tax:

The 1990s New Labour government is accused of introducing these to raise extra revenue without apparently breaking their pre-election pledges to not increase taxes! Previously, most of the tax revenue had been raised via a small number of simple taxes such as Income Tax. This government introduced a large number of obscure and complicated taxes, charges and measures.

Window Tax:

A tax levied between 1695 and 1851 on windows in houses. Hence "Daylight Robbery." Generally, rich people lived in houses with more windows, so paid more tax. To reduce tax bills but preserve appearances, some house windows were bricked-up and replaced by painted dummy windows. Other variations included the "Hearth Tax" which was levied on each fireplace.

Means Test:

Notorious but increasingly common method of deciding entitlement to targeted welfare benefits. At one time it included an assessment of people's saleable property: People would be forced to sell their property including furniture before being allowed benefits. In modern times such tests usually assess only a person's financial assets – life savings are penalized but a new car is not!

Targeted Benefit:

Allocation of welfare benefits according to officially assessed "need" rather than to previous "insurance" contributions. Whilst apparently "fairer" and more "efficient," this penalizes people who "save for a rainy day" and encourages dependency on welfare benefits.

Dutch Auction:

Auction in which the price is started at a high level, then progressively reduced until a buyer is found.

"Born with a silver spoon in her mouth:"

Heiress. To come from a rich family and inherit wealth. To start with all the advantages.

"Cross my palm with silver:"

Give me silver coins - ie. not low value copper coins. Traditional (lucky) payment, especially for Romany fortune tellers.

Buckshee: (Baksheesh or Backsheesh.)

Free, without charge.

Note. This is a corruption of the middle-eastern word baksheesh, or backsheesh. It is also a misunderstanding. (Rich) Foreigners travelling in the middle-east often complain about being pestered for baksheesh – normally by hordes of local small children.

The real baksheesh system embedded in the local culture is far more honourable and involves gifts given freely in both directions. I encountered it several times while travelling in Upper Egypt. Initially I was completely unprepared: The first time that I was given too much change by a small shop-keeper, I assumed that he had made a mistake. The shop-keeper assumed that I would make a gift to the local person who had kindly guided me to the shop. (This was all in Arabic.) I met many other instances where there was no ulterior motive or obligation.

In many religions, people can gain "merit" by making gifts – especially to the poor, the needy or to travellers. This culture of giving is especially strong in rugged desert regions. One popular way is to provide supplies of "hospitality water" outside your house for passers-by to drink. However, generosity goes only so far: The drinking cup is usually fixed by a security chain!

Loose change:

Low value coins.


Low value coins. Modern ex-military slang?

Penny Black:

Early UK postage stamp.

Penny dreadful:

Cheap, lurid novel. Popular during 19th century.

"A penny for them?"

A penny to reveal your thoughts? What are you thinking about? What is troubling you?

Ten a penny:

Very cheap, or plentiful.

Penny Stock:

Low-priced equity (company share) which may, or may not, eventually rise in value. Often promoted by "Get Rich Quick" schemes and their subscription newsletters. Typically equities which sell for less than 1 Dollar per share, sometimes less than 5 Dollars per share.

Pennywise, pound foolish:

Make false economies: Work hard to make small savings on small costs, but fail to control or perhaps even increase costs of large items.


Spend grudgingly, cheeseparing, stingy; sometimes counter-productive, leading unwanted results.

"Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves:"

Sage advice.

"In for a penny, in for a pound:"

Fully committed to something.

"Many a mickle makes a muckle:"

Scottish saying: Small amounts accumulate.

Peppercorn rent:

Low rent. Small rent charged to retain rights of ownership. Although at times, peppercorns have actually been worth more than their weight in gold.

Mag (Magg, Meg, Megg, Meag, etc.):

Halfpenny. Sometimes, a farthing, penny, threepenny bit, or other low-value coin.


Halfpenny. Cockney slang.


Halfpenny-worth. Trifling amount. "Not a ha'p'orth of difference." "Spoil the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar."


Old penny. Also, any of the bronze coins. (Also a policeman.)


Two penny worth: Ostentatious, trivial contribution, or interference. "He can't resist adding his two-penn'orth!" Similar to "Two cents worth" in USA.

Tu'p'ny Ha'p'ny (Tu'penny Ha'penny):

Two and a half pennies. Insult: Cheap. "Him and his tu'p'ny ha'p'ny friends."


Threepence or fourpence. Especially a silver threepenny or fourpenny piece. Also a young child or animal, young kangaroo.


Trifling amount. Fourpenny piece. Price of a short Hackney Carriage ride in early Victorian London.

Fo'rp'ny one:

Fourpenny one. Violent blow or punch. Also, a brief encounter with a "Lady of the Night" especially in Whitechapel in the East End of Victorian London.

Bunch of fives:

Violent punch. (With the ... err ... four fingers of a fist.)

Knock it for six:

Overwhelming or conspicuous success. In cricket: To hit the ball clear over the boundary line, automatically gaining 6 "runs."



To Take the King's Shilling:

To enlist in the Army or Royal Navy. To accept payment and then be obliged to do something. (Army recruiting Sergeants were reputed to give potential recruits a drink in which they had concealed a shilling, and then claim that the unwitting recruit had "accepted the King's shilling.")


To cheat at an auction by bidding falsely to inflate prices.


Shilling. The Boy Scouts had an annual "bob a job" week to raise funds.



Half a dollar:

Two shillings and sixpence.

(In a) Two 'n eight, (2 'n 8, 2 and 8, Two and eight):

In a state. Agitated, distressed, disorganized, chaotic. Cockney rhyming slang. "He's in a right 2 'n 8 about it!"

Three and fourpence:

(Army) Reinforcements. From the apocryphal story that the urgent military message: "Send reinforcements we are going to advance!" Was distorted by "Chinese whispering" into: "Send three and fourpence we're going to a dance!"

Three shillings and four pence. To help raise extra taxes, King Charles I minted a coin (¼ Silver Mark).


5 shillings. From the time when £1 was worth 4 US dollars.

Nine bob note:

Insult. "As bent as a 9 bob note."






Modern £1 coin. From the jibe: Thick, brassy and thinks that it's a sovereign!


21 shillings. Term still used in horse racing and auctions.



Lady Godiva:

£5. Cockney rhyming slang for a fiver.





Half a ton:







£1000. "k" in "Yuppie-speak."

US Currency, Business Jargon & Slang - from the B-Movies!

We have all heard them, but what do they actually mean?


Paper currency. eg. A dollar bill. Sometimes means a 100 dollar bill.


Restaurant bill. Also, a cheque.
In USA you settle a check with bills (ie. dollar bills) but in UK you pay your bills with a cheque!

Rain check:

Voucher for re-entry to a future sports game. Issued when sporting event is cancelled due to rain. "Take a rain check" = Slang for requesting or agreeing to a postponement.


The "wizard" employee who consistently brings in new, profitable, and often pioneering business which makes it "rain" money. Within an investment bank, would often be the highly paid "star trader" heading a successful team of traders.

Prop Desk:

Proprietary Desk. In investment banking, the group of traders who trade using the bank's own funds rather than clients' funds. Can bring the bank great profits; but can also incur heavy losses which threaten the bank's survival. Often run by a rainmaker.

Lynchpin, Linchpin, Lynch Pin:

Someone or something which is vital to an organisation or enterprise. Originally, the pin keeping a wheel etc. on an axle.

Push the envelope:

Attempt something daring in pursuit of an aim. Possibly first used to describe the daring flights during which test pilots pushed experimental aircraft beyond normal flight envelopes (ie. operating limits) of height and speed, and eventually broke the "sound barrier".

Step up to the Plate:

Accept the challenge; give it your best effort. In baseball: The batter steps forward to the plate, faces balls from the pitcher and does his best to hit them and achieve a high score.

Reach first base:

Achieve the first necessary step. In baseball: Get to the marker (ie. base) that a player must reach safely in order to score a "hit" – the first of three bases that he must reach safely on the way to the "home plate" in order to score a "run".

Home run:

Complete success. In baseball: Hit the ball far enough to allow the hitter the time to run around all four bases, usually achieved by hitting the ball right out of the playing area.


Set of pre-planned strategies and tactics for use during a business or political campaign. In sports, esp. American football & basketball: Originally a notebook containing diagrams & descriptions of a team's playing tactics, covering the various likely scenarios.

Slam Dunk:

Forceful, dramatic move against an opponent, especially a move which is very likely to be successful. In basketball, jumping-up and forcing the ball down through the opposing team's hoop.

Black Swan Event:

Unforeseen event which has a large, unfortunate impact; but which hindsight later shows should have been expected and prepared for.

Also, an unexpected or inconvenient fact which disproves a popular belief or theory. eg. Europeans assumed that all swans were white, until a Dutch expedition led by Willem de Vlamingh discovered black swans in Western Australia.

Butterfly Effect:

Chaos theory made popular by Lorenz. Effect in a non-linear system, where an insignificant change to one value changes the initial conditions of a much larger process, leading to a vastly different outcome. Popularly explained as: A butterfly in Mexico flapping its wings, could lead to a tornado tracking towards Texas!

Domino Effect:

Chain reaction where one (possibly minor) event triggers other events, leading to much more widespread effects; especially when an apparently minor event destabilises many other institutions or structures which were already vulnerable & potentially unstable. Often applied to linear systems.

20/20 Hindsight:

Being ever so wise... after an event. The metric equivalent for "perfect" visual acuity is 6/6 (6 metres instead of 20 feet). But, perhaps users of the newfangled metric system do not have such effective hindsight?

Astroturfing & Astroturf Group:

Campaigning by organisation or pressure group which pretends to be an independent "grass-roots" organisation and may even have genuine members; but which is actually a "front," covertly set-up, supported and controlled by a powerful organisation or person. Can be similar to "rent-a-crowd" campaigns.

Rent A Crowd:

Campaign which pretends to have widespread, "grass-roots" support, but where most of the participants are induced to take part by threats, gifts or bribes... or simply by making it easier for them just to agree.

Third degree:

Torture or bullying to extort information or a confession.

Third degree burn: Deep burn affecting the skin and tissue.
Second degree burn: Burn causing skin blisters.
First degree burn: Burn causing painful red skin.

First degree murder: Unlawful premeditated or wilful murder. "Murder One."
Second degree murder: Unlawful un-premeditated killing, especially while committing a crime.
Third degree murder: Unlawful killing without malice, manslaughter. Causing death through criminal negligence.
(Note. The precise definitions and penalties vary in different countries and USA States.)

Take the fifth (amendment):

In USA: Refuse to answer a question on the grounds that it might incriminate you. Rely on the fifth amendment to the US constitution which states that no person may be forced to testify against themself or be tried a second time after being acquitted on the same charge.

Let's Press a Random Key Here:

So much more "modern" than simply guessing or flipping a coin.

Moonshot Goal:

Ambitious venture which will require new thinking or technology, but which could bring great benefits. Named after the speech by USA President JF Kennedy at Rice University on 12 September 1962, when he proclaimed "We choose to go to the Moon..."

...but what were "the other things"?

Roofshot Goal:

Ambitious venture requiring skill & effort to produce useful benefits; normally through incremental rather than revolutionary changes & improvements. Often illustrated by an image of a basketball bouncing off a garage roof into a child's basketball hoop.

Earthshot Prize:

New prizes for the decade to 2030, to encourage moonshot type progress, particularly towards solving environmental challenges. Five prizes will be awarded during each of the ten years.


The White House: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC; Official residence of the USA President.


Smallest unit. 100 cents = 1 dollar.


1 cent coin.

Two cents worth:

Ostentatious, trivial contribution, or interference. "He can't resist adding his two cents worth!" Similar to "Two-penn'orth" in UK.


5 cent coin.


Early type of jukebox. Pianola (some charged 5 cents per tune). Cinema which charged 5 cents for admission.

Nickel and Dime:

Low cost, cheap, trivial. "Nickel and Dime Store" = shop selling cheap everyday items.


10 cent coin. "Buddy can you spare a dime?" "A dime a dozen" = very cheap.


12½ cents. Possibly because an early Spanish peso coins could be divided into eight real pieces. (ie. The "Pieces of eight" beloved by pirates and buccaneers.)

Two-bit (slang):

25 cents. Cheap. Insult. "You two-bit, low down, yellow bellied ...."


25 cents.


100 cents.


A dollar.

Fin, Finn:

5 dollar bill. Possibly from German/Yiddish.

Nickel Note:

5 dollar bill.

Five Spot:

5 dollar bill.

Ten Spot:

10 dollar bill.


10 dollar bill.


10 dollar bill. (After Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers..


20 dollar bill.


20 dollar bill.


50 dollar bill.

64 dollar question:

Any crucial question or issue. Originally, the top question in "Take it or Leave it" a US radio game show (1941 to 1948). Often now the "64 thousand dollar question."


100 dollars. (Benjamin Franklin's image on 100 dollar bills.)


100 dollars. Also just "C."


100 dollars.

Big one:

1000 dollars. "That'll cost you ten big ones!"


1000 dollars.


1000 dollars.


1000 dollars.


10,000 dollars consisting of one hundred x 100 dollar bills. Often banded by banks.

Dead Presidents (slang):

US paper currency: Most US currency bills carry images of former US presidents.

Green-back (slang):

US paper currency. US currency bills with green printing on the reverse.

Note. In spite of protests from traditionalists, the US Treasury is now changing to more secure multi-coloured printing. The 20 dollar bill launched in Fall (Autumn) 2003 is tinted green and peach. It has a blue eagle. When the note is tilted, the figure "20" in the bottom right corner changes colour from copper to green. The US Treasury plans to change all other bills.

Wetback (slang):

Illegal immigrant to the USA, especially one who has swum across the Rio Grande from Mexico.

Green card:

Official permit to enter and work in the USA. (Worth more than money?) Elsewhere, certificate of international insurance cover against vehicle accidents.

Note. These are only a few of the many slang terms for money. In the USA especially, each groups seems to invent its own private slang. Some slang terms spread more widely, some fall quickly out of use.

Ancient Money Terms:


Financial penalty inflicted at the MERCY of the King or his justices for various minor offences. The offender is said to be "IN MERCY" and the monies paid to the crown to settle the matter was called amercement (See also Fines).

Danegeld or Danegelt:

The money paid by Anglo-Saxon Britain to persuade the Danes to not invade the South and West. Now means money extorted by threats. Due to the huge quantities of silver pennies paid in Danegeld, more pennies have been discovered in Denmark than in Britain.


The Roman penny. Hence the abbreviation "d" for the English silver penny which for many centuries was the most common the coin in circulation. Although sometimes "clipped" or "debased," the English silver penny contained a standard weight of silver and so could be traded across Europe.


Financial department of the royal government. The chief officers of the Exchequer were the Treasurer, the Chancellor and the Justiciar. Sheriffs, in their role as regional chief accountants, presented reports to the exchequer at Easter and Michaelmas.

Originally, accounts were verified by placing wooden tallies in the boxes marked on a check table cloth, hence the Exchequer. Chequers, the official country residence of the Prime Minister of the UK probably takes its name from the Exchequer checker-board pattern on the coat of arm of a previous owner, Elias Ostiarius.

Although Treasury officials had been instructed in 1726 to use paper records rather than tallies, wooden tallies were still used until the dissolution of the Court of Exchequer, in 1826. On 16th October 1834, two officials burning obsolete tally sticks in the cellars caused a fire which burned down most of the British Houses of Parliament. The Houses of Parliament were finally rebuilt between 1852 and 1870. They were bombed in 1941 and rebuilt after WWII.

Fief de Haubert:

11th century French term equivalent to the term Knight's Fee because of the coat of mail (hauberk) which it entitled and required every tenant to own and wear when his services were needed. This provided a definite estate in France, because only persons who had this estate or greater were allowed to wear hauberks.

Geld or Gelt:

Tax. As in Danegeld, the money raised and paid by Anglo-Saxon Britain to persuade the Danes to not invade the South and West.

Knight's Fee:

In theory, a Fief which provided sufficient revenue to equip and support one knight. This was approximately twelve hides or 1500 acres, although the terms applied more to revenue a fief could generate than its size; it required about thirty marks per year to support a knight.


Soldier holding his land, generally 60-120 acres, specifically in exchange for military service. Sometimes called a Yeoman.


Small holding, typically 1200-1800 acres, with its own court and probably its own hall, but not necessarily having a manor house. The manor as a unit of land was generally held by a knight (knight's fee) or managed by a bailiff for some other holder.


Money. Normally means the silver mark, a measure of silver, generally eight ounces, accepted throughout medieval western Europe. Although they were sometimes "clipped" or "debased," the English silver penny contained a standard weight of silver and so could be traded across Europe. In England the mark was worth thirteen shillings and four pence, ie. two thirds of £1. Equivalent to present value of the Euro.

The gold mark was worth £6.

Maundy Money:

Ceremonial coins given to the poor by the British Monarch, on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter. Consists of silver 4, 3, 2, and 1 pence coins. Each recipient is given coins which total the Monarch's age.

Penny Weight:

The weight of one silver penny. A twentieth of an ounce (Troy).

Pound Sterling:

The modern base unit of currency in Britain. Originally the monetary value of 12 ounces (Troy) of the high purity, durable, Sterling Silver, equivalent to 240 silver pennies. For many centuries, the value of 12 ounces of silver was equivalent to one ounce of gold.

Pound Weight (Avoirdupois):

16 ounces (Avoirdupois).


Exemption, normally from specific taxes or duties. Also a receipt or acknowledgement of payment.


Originally, not an actual coin, but a measure of money used for accounting purposes: The amount of silver equivalent to 12 silver pennies. (This varied at times because the amount of silver in pennies varied.)

King Henry Tudor and Henry Vlll minted the first actual coins worth 12 pennies, the Testoon and the Shilling. The small silvery shilling coin has now been replaced by the 5 new pence coin. By coincidence, the Anglo-Saxon scilling, skilling or scylling had been worth 5 silver pennies.

Comparable to the French Sol or Sou. (From the Roman Solidus.)

Many countries around the world, including most of the former British Empire have had shilling coins. While in Botswana in the 1980s, a local farmer offered me some melons priced in shillings, although the old East African Shilling had long since been replaced first by the Rand and then by the Pula.

Tally Stick:

Small wooden stick, often hazel, with special notches which denoted the amount of money. Originally, accounts were verified by placing wooden tallies in the boxes marked on a check table cloth, hence the Exchequer.

Although Treasury officials had been instructed in 1726 to use paper records rather than tallies, wooden tallies were still used until the dissolution of the Court of Exchequer, in 1826. On 16th October 1834, two officials burning obsolete tally sticks in the cellars caused a fire which burned down most of the British Houses of Parliament. The Houses of Parliament were finally rebuilt between 1852 and 1870. They were bombed in 1941 and rebuilt after WWII.

Third penny:

The local earl's one-third share of fines in shire or hundred courts, often allocated afterwards to a particular manor or church as income.


One tenth of a person's produce and income, due as a tax to support the church. Many tithe barns where such produce was stored, still exist.

Other Hemyock Glossaries:

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