The Free Dictionary Blog > The strange coinages of money words

The strange coinages of money words

Wordymology is a series in which the editors at The Free Dictionary explore the origins of the names of things.
Some money words were minted millennia ago. Others are more re-cent.

The Coining of “Money”

Money comes from a mint, but, etymologically, both words come from the same source: the Latin word monēta, meaning “mint.” That word derives from Monēta, an epithet of Juno, queen of the Roman gods. In ancient Rome, the temple of Juno Moneta served as a mint for silver coins, and the association stuck—perhaps making “money” and “mint” the only two words that were literally coined.

Bet Your Bottom Taler

To find the origins of the word “dollar,” we have to go back to the days of the Holy Roman Empire, to the town of Joachimstal (now Jáchymov in the present-day Czech Republic). A coin that was minted there in the 16th century became known as a Joachimsthaler, and then taler for short. Taler became daler In Low German before it entered English and became “dollar.”

Bucks and Bubbles

“Bucks,” the slang term for “dollars,” is short for “buckskin,” a reference to the use of deerskins in trade.
Bill”—as in “dollar bill” and the bills that cause your dollar bills to disappear—derives from an alteration of the Latin word bulla, which meant “seal on a document,” and, before that, “bubble.” Maybe that’s why it always feels like your money is floating away.

Breaking the Bank

The word “bank” derives from the Old Italian word banca, meaning “money changer’s table.” The word “bankrupt” comes from the Italian phrase banca rota, which literally means “broken bank.”

The Dead Pledge

If you have a mortgage on your home, congratulations: you’ve agreed to a “dead pledge.” The word “mortgage” combines two Latin words that mean just that: mortus, a form of morī (“to die”), and gage (“pledge”). In Anglo-Norman law, a “dead pledge” was a system of credit in which any profits generated by the real estate itself were kept by the creditor. In contrast, an arrangement in which profits from the property could be applied to the principal was called a vif gage—a “living pledge.”
Now go share the wealth. Bet ya 10 bubbles your friends will appreciate it! Or at least taler-ate it.
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