I’m having some book covers created by David Collins of DC Cover Creations, and I pay in British pounds. I started thinking about the names of various currencies, and what they mean.
The penny. Well, pennies are old, and I don’t mean just sort of old. The word has a Proto-Germanic origin and there are a few hypotheses as to the original meaning. One is “pledge,” and another is “cloth” (cloth was used to pay for things.)
The dollar. Whereas pennies are ancient, the word “dollar” is attested from around 1500. It entered English via Dutch, but is ultimately from German “Sankt Joachimsthaler,” which was a coin minted in St. Joachim’s Valley. (It’s now in the Czech Republic and called Jáchimov.)
The pound. The weight and currency meanings are related, which doesn’t surprise me. So much of something is worth so much, and having a fixed weight makes sense. What did take me somewhat aback was the origin of the verb. I had assumed it was related to weight, to strike with a heavy weight, but no. It’s from a word meaning to pulverize or break to pieces.
As for the book covers, I’m looking forward to sharing them with you soon.