DEFINITION of 'Quid'

Quid is a slang term for the pound sterling, or the British pound, the currency of the United Kingdom. A quid is equivalent to 100 pence, and it is thought to come from the Latin phrase "quid pro quo" meaning "something for something," or an equal exchange for goods or services. However, the exact origin of the word as it pertains to the British currency is uncertain.

BREAKING DOWN 'Quid'

Quid, as it describes 1 pound sterling, came into use sometime in the 1680s, but no one knows for sure why this word is synonymous with British currency. Italian immigrants may have started the word thanks to "scudo," the name for several coins used in Italy in the 1800s. Quidhampton, a village in Wiltshire, England, once housed a Royal Mint paper mill. Any paper money that came from this mill might have been called a quid. Although the origin of the word "quid" is shrouded in mystery, the pound sterling has a rich history of more than 12 centuries as the world's oldest currency still in use.

The Pound Sterling in History

Historians trace the pound sterling back to 775 A.D. when Anglo-Saxon kings used silver pennies, or "sterlings," as currency. Someone who collected 240 of them had 1 pound of sterlings, hence the name "pound sterling." The standard of 240 pence in 1 pound sterling remained steadfast for nearly 1,200 years until 1971. This is when Parliament instituted decimalization to make 100 pence equal 1 pound sterling.

An actual pound coin did not occur until 1489 under King Henry VII, and it was called a sovereign. Shillings were first minted in 1504, with 12 pence in 20 shillings and 20 shillings in 1 pound. Gold coins started in 1560. Between 775 A.D. and decimalization in 1971, British coins have been made into all kinds of denominations. Some of these 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, but others turned into banknotes.

Banknotes

English banknotes originated during the reign of King William III after he started the Bank of England in 1694. The main bill of the time was a 10 pound note, but then severe inflation caused the monarchy to issue 5 pound notes. By 1717, the name "pound sterling" became nearly obsolete as European nations went to a gold standard, rather than a silver standard, until the early 1900s. Contemporary pound sterling, whether in coins or bills, has no silver whatsoever.

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