What Is a Quid?

Quid is a slang expression for the British pound sterling, or the British pound (GBP), which is the currency of the United Kingdom (U.K.). A quid is equal to 100 pence, and it is generally believed to come from the Latin phrase “quid pro quo,” which translates into "something for something," or an equal exchange for goods or services. However, the exact etymology of the word as it relates to the British pound is still uncertain.

Key Takeaways

  • Quid is a slang expression for the British pound sterling, or the British pound (GBP), which is the currency of the United Kingdom (U.K.).
  • A quid equals 100 pence, and is believed to come from the Latin phrase “quid pro quo,” which translates into "something for something."
  • Quid, as it describes one pound sterling, is thought to have first come into use sometime in the late 17th century, but no one knows for certain.

Understanding Quid

Quid, as it describes one pound sterling, is thought to have first come into use sometime in the late 17th century, but no one is quite certain why this word became synonymous with the British currency. Some scholars believe that Italian immigrants may have originated the word thanks to "scudo," the name for gold and silver coins of various denominations that were used in Italy from the 16th century through the 19th century.

Another possibility is that the word traces back to Quidhampton, a village in Wiltshire, England, that once was home to a Royal Mint paper mill. It’s possible that any paper money that was made in this mill might have been called a quid. Although the word’s origin continues to be a mystery, the pound sterling has a rich history of more than 12 centuries as the world's oldest currency still in use. Today, the U.K. is one of the few European countries that does not use the euro as a common currency. The U.K. is made up of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

The Pound Sterling in History

Historians trace the pound sterling all the way back to 775 A.D. when Anglo-Saxon kings used silver pennies, called sterlings, as currency. Someone who collected 240 of them had 1 pound of sterlings, hence the name "pound sterling.” In Latin, Libra means " weight" and Libra Pondo translated to pound weight, which is why the British pound bears a fancy "L" or £ symbol.

The standard of 240 pence in one pound sterling remained the standard for nearly 1,200 years until 1971. This was when the British Parliament instituted decimalization to make 100 pence equal one pound sterling.

An actual pound coin did not exist until 1489 when Henry VII was king, and it was called a sovereign. In addition to the United Kingdom, the British pound has previously served as currency in many of the colonies of the British Empire including Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Shillings were first minted in 1504, with 12 pence in 20 shillings and 20 shillings in one pound. Gold coins started in 1560. Between 775 A.D. and 1971, British coins have been made into all kinds of denominations. Some of these coins were called pennies, halfpennies, farthings, half-crowns, and double-florins. Other coins included groats, threepenny bits, and twopence. Most of these denominations are no longer in circulation, while others became banknotes.

Banknotes

English banknotes were created during the rule of King William III after he started the Bank of England in 1694. They were handwritten at that time. The main bill in use during that time was a 10-pound note. However, a lengthy period of severe inflation or rising prices later forced the monarchy to issue five-pound notes. By 1717, the term "pound sterling" became nearly obsolete when Europe moved to a gold standard, instead of a silver standard, until the early 1900s. Contemporary pound sterling, whether in coins or bills, has no silver whatsoever.