How did coins get their names?
One can bank on the fact that most coins derive from Latin words, and are named after people, places, or things.
Even the word coin, translates from the Latin "cuneus," meaning wedge, and was thusly named because early coins resembled the wedges the dies used to coin coins. Our cent, from the Latin "centum," meaning one hundred, our dime, from the Latin "decimus," meaning tenth, and the French franc, from the Latin "Franconium Rex," meaning King of the Franks, are all examples of the naming of money, the root of all evil, which translates from the Latin word "mona," meaning to warn!
On to a more weighty manner in which people named coins, that being physical weight. The English pound, translates from the Latin "pondo," meaning pound, or, to get more heavily into detail, from the Latin "libra pondo," meaning a pound of weight. This method of naming coins weighed heavily in naming of the Spanish peso and of the Italian lira.
A sense of fairness dictates that some coins bear the names of the metals of which they are composed. Thus, our nickel is made of nickel. Location, not Latin, sometimes figures prominently into the naming of sum (oops!), some coins. Our very own dollar, not always in paper form, originally hailed from the silver mines of Bohemia, where Bohemians extracted silver for the coins, and minted them in the town of Joachimsthal. Realizing that the coin they termed the Joachimsthaler, short of lacking in creativity, was rather lengthy, our Bohemian friends lost the head of the name, and kept the tail, with the end result being the thaler. The thaler eventually lost its lisp, and became our dollar.
Many countries used their word for crown, for example, crown, sovereign, krone, krun, krone, corona (not the beer), to demonstrate that some crown authority initially granted permission to mint them. Other countries named coins in honor of their heros, such as the Panamanian balboa, after the explorer Balboa, the Venezuelan bolivar, after one of it's national heros, and the Peruvian sol, also not a beer, but the Spanish word for sun, after this ancient Incan object of worship.
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This Page was last updated on April 25, 2000