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The British abbreviation for penny is d - as in 10d; what word does the d abbreviate?

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Answer: denarius

According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, in Latin denarius denotes "coin of ten asses."


On the "d" = "denarius/denarii" MooT etymology question, I would like to add two comments:

1. While the quotation from the Oxford Dictionary was accurate for the word ' denarius', the recent (but not current) use of the abbreviated "d" is specifically addressed therein under entry D III. Abbreviations, etc. 1. "d stands for [Latin] denarius and so for 'penny', 'pence'; as 1d. = one penny, £.s.d. = pounds, shillings, pence". The £ or pound sterling was originally, but certainly not presently, the value of a pound (Latin 'librum') of silver. The 's' is not "shilling" but the Latin solidus. The solidus (solidii) was a gold coin of the Roman Empire and worth about 25 denarii. I believe the system 240d. = 20s. = £1 was in place since the Norman Conquest. Prior to that the terms were in use but the numerical ratios varied.

2. On 15 February 1971, he £.s.d. coinage was changed to a decimal system (£p) wherein 100p. = £1, thus 2.4d. = 1p. When first introduced, the new coinage was minted and named 'new penny (pence)' and abbreviated 'p' to distinguish it from the old 'd'. As the old coinage disappeared from circulation and people became familiar with the system, the word 'new' was dropped. The 5p (= 1s.) coin is the smallest denomination that corresponds with a coin of the old system, and one can still hear the term 'shilling' occasionally applied. I enjoy your etymology Emails!
Richard B. Ward

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