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A 1933 UK shilling 1933 Scottish Shilling.jpg
A 1933 UK shilling
1956 Elizabeth II UK shilling showing English and Scottish reverses BritishShilling.jpeg
1956 Elizabeth II UK shilling showing English and Scottish reverses

The shilling is a historical coin, and the name of a unit of modern currencies formerly used in Austria (Schilling), and in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and other British Commonwealth countries.


Currently the shilling is used as a currency in four east African countries: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Somalia. The East African Community additionally plans to introduce an East African shilling.


English shilling minted under Edward VI (c. 1551) Edward VI 77001683.jpg
English shilling minted under Edward VI (c. 1551)
Billon shilling coin of the imperial city of Zurich (1640) Zurich, Schilling 1640.jpeg
Billon shilling coin of the imperial city of Zürich (1640)
Silver 4 shilling coin of Hamburg (1728) IIII Schilling Hamburg Current 1728.jpg
Silver 4 shilling coin of Hamburg (1728)

The word shilling comes from old English "Scilling", a monetary term meaning twentieth of a pound, from the Proto-Germanic root skiljaną meaning 'to separate, split, divide', from (s)kelH- meaning 'to cut, split.' The word "Scilling" is mentioned in the earliest recorded Germanic law codes, those of Æthelberht of Kent.

Recently, it has been proposed that it may represent an early borrowing of Phoenician Shekel, Punic Sql (sə'kel) meaning 'weigh' and 'coin'. The two meanings given in the literature in both Germanic and Semitic word are the same for both a fixed weight and a certain coin; the best etymology for a coin in a language of a people not familiar with currency being a reconstruction as a loanword from the language of a culturally more advanced people in contact with the people under study. [1] [2] [3]

In origin, the word shilling designated the solidus of Late Antiquity, the gold coin that replaced the aureus in the 4th century. The Anglo-Saxon scillingas of the 7th century were still small gold coins.

In 796, Charlemagne passed a monetary reform, based on the Carolingian silver pound (about 406.5 grams). The shilling was one twentieth of a pound, or about 20.3 grams of silver. One shilling had 12 denarii or pennies. There were, however, no silver shilling coins in the Carolingian period, and gold shillings (equivalent to twelve silver pennies) were very rare.

In the 12th century, larger silver coins of multiple penny weight were minted, known as denarii grossi or groat. These heavier coins were valued at between 4 and 20 of the silver denarii. In the late medieval period, states of the Holy Roman Empire began minting similar silver coins of multiple penny weight, some of them denominated as shilling.

In the 16th century, numerous different types of "shilling" were minted in Europe. The English shilling was the continuation of the testoon coin under Edward VI, from 1551 minted in 92.5% "sterling" silver.

By the 17th century, further devaluation resulted in shillings in the Holy Roman Empire, with 48 shillings to one Reichsthaler, to no longer being struck in silver but in billon. The English (later British) shilling continued to be minted as a silver coin until 1947.

British Isles

Kingdom of England

A shilling was a coin used in England from the reign of Henry VII [4] (or Edward VI around 1550). The shilling continued in use after the Acts of Union of 1707 created a new United Kingdom from the Kingdoms of England and Scotland, and under Article 16 of the Articles of Union, a common currency for the new United Kingdom was created.

Kingdom of Scotland

The term shilling (Scots : schilling) was in use in Scotland from early medieval times.

Great Britain and the UK

Slang terms for the old shilling coins include "bob" and "hog". While the derivation of "bob" is uncertain, John Camden Hotten in his 1864 Slang Dictionary says the original version was "bobstick" and speculates that it may be connected with Sir Robert Walpole. [5]

One abbreviation for shilling is s (for solidus, see £sd). Often it was represented by a solidus symbol ("/"), which may have originally stood for a long s or ſ, [6] thus 1/9 would be one shilling and ninepence (and equivalent to 21d; the shilling itself was equal to 12d). A price with no pence was sometimes written with a solidus and a dash: 11/–.

During the Great Recoinage of 1816, the mint was instructed to coin one troy pound (weighing 5760 grains or 373 g) of standard (0.925 fine) silver into 66 shillings, or its equivalent in other denominations. This set the weight of the shilling, and its subsequent decimal replacement 5 new pence coin, at 87.2727 grains or 5.655 grams from 1816 until 1990, when a new smaller 5p coin was introduced.

The common currency created in 1707 by Article 16 of the Articles of Union continued in use until decimalisation in 1971. In the traditional pounds, shillings and pence system, there were 20 shillings per pound and 12 pence per shilling, and thus there were 240 pence in a pound.

Three coins denominated in multiple shillings were also in circulation at this time. They were:

At decimalisation in 1971, the shilling coin was superseded by the new five-pence piece, which initially was of identical size and weight and had the same value, and inherited the shilling's slang name of a bob. Shillings remained in circulation until the five pence coin was reduced in size in 1991.

Irish shillings

Between 1701 and the unification of the currencies in 1825, the Irish shilling was valued at 13 pence and known as the "black hog", as opposed to the 12-pence English shillings which were known as "white hogs".

In the Irish Free State and Republic of Ireland the shilling coin was issued as scilling in Irish. It was worth 1/20th of an Irish pound, and was interchangeable at the same value to the British coin, which continued to be used in Northern Ireland. The coin featured a bull on the reverse side. The first minting, from 1928 until 1941, contained 75% silver, more than the equivalent British coin. The original Irish shilling coin (retained after decimalisation) was withdrawn from circulation on 1 January 1993, when a smaller five pence coin was introduced.

British Empire

Australian shillings

Owing to the reach of the British Empire, the shilling was once used on every inhabited continent. This two-shilling piece was minted for British West Africa. Two shilling coin from British West Africa.jpg
Owing to the reach of the British Empire, the shilling was once used on every inhabited continent. This two-shilling piece was minted for British West Africa.

Australian shillings, twenty of which made up one Australian pound, were first issued in 1910, with the Australian coat of arms on the reverse and King Edward VII on the face. The coat of arms design was retained through the reign of King George V until a new ram's head design was introduced for the coins of King George VI. This design continued until the last year of issue in 1963. In 1966, Australia's currency was decimalised and the shilling was replaced by a ten cent coin (Australian), where 10 shillings made up one Australian dollar.

The slang term for a shilling coin in Australia was "deener". The slang term for a shilling as currency unit was "bob", the same as in the United Kingdom.

After 1966, shillings continued to circulate, as they were replaced by 10-cent coins of the same size and weight.

New Zealand shilling

New Zealand shillings, twenty of which made up one New Zealand pound, were first issued in 1933 and featured the image of a Maori warrior carrying a taiaha "in a warlike attitude" on the reverse. [7] In 1967, New Zealand's currency was decimalised and the shilling was replaced by a ten cent coin of the same size and weight. Ten cent coins minted through the remainder of the 1960s included the legend "ONE SHILLING" on the reverse. Smaller 10-cent coins were introduced in 2006.

Maltese shillings

The shilling (Maltese : xelin, pl. xelini) was used in Malta, prior to decimalisation in 1972, and had a face value of five Maltese cents.

Ceylonese shillings

In British Ceylon, an shilling (Sinhala : Silima, Tamil : Silin) was equivalent to eight fanams. With the replacement of the rixdollar by the rupee in 1852, a shilling was deemed to be equivalent to half a rupee. On the decimalisation of the currency in 1869, a shilling was deemed to be equivalent to 50 Ceylon cents. The term continued to be used colloquially until the late 20th century. [8]

East African shillings

Countries in Africa where the currency is called shilling. African use of the shilling.png
Countries in Africa where the currency is called shilling.

The East African shilling was in use in the British colonies and protectorates of British Somaliland, Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda and Zanzibar from 1920, when it replaced the rupee, until after those countries became independent, and in Tanzania after that country was formed by the merger of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964. Upon independence in 1960, the East African shilling in the State of Somaliland (former British Somaliland) and the Somali somalo in the Trust Territory of Somalia (former Italian Somaliland) were replaced by the Somali shilling. [9]

In 1966, the East African Monetary Union broke up, and the member countries replaced their currencies with the Kenyan shilling, the Ugandan shilling and the Tanzanian shilling, respectively. [10] Though all these currencies have different values at present, there were plans to reintroduce the East African shilling as a new common currency by 2009, [11] although this has not come about.

North America

In the thirteen British colonies that became the United States in 1776, British money was often in circulation. Each colony issued its own paper money, with pounds, shillings, and pence used as the standard units of account. Some coins were minted in the colonies, such as the 1652 pine-tree shilling in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. After the United States adopted the dollar as its unit of currency and accepted the gold standard, one British shilling was worth 24 US cents. Due to ongoing shortages of US coins in some regions, shillings continued to circulate well into the nineteenth century. Shillings are described as the standard monetary unit throughout the autobiography of Solomon Northup (1853) [12] and mentioned several times in the Horatio Alger, Jr. story Ragged Dick (1868). [13] [14]

Somali shilling

The Somali shilling is the official currency of Somalia. It is subdivided into 100 cents (English), senti (Somali, also سنت) or centesimi (Italian).

The Somali shilling has been the currency of parts of Somalia since 1921, when the East African shilling was introduced to the former British Somaliland protectorate. Following independence in 1960, the somalo of Italian Somaliland and the East African shilling (which were equal in value) were replaced at par in 1962 by the Somali shilling. Names used for the denominations were cent, centesimo (plural: centesimi) and سنت (plurals: سنتيمات and سنتيما) together with shilling, scellino (plural: scellini) and شلن.

That same year, the Banca Nazionale Somala issued notes for 5, 10, 20 and 100 scellini/shillings. In 1975, the Bankiga Qaranka Soomaaliyeed (Somali National Bank) introduced notes for 5, 10, 20 and 100 shilin/shillings. These were followed in 1978 by notes of the same denominations issued by the Bankiga Dhexe Ee Soomaaliya (Central Bank of Somalia). 50 shilin/shillings notes were introduced in 1983, followed by 500 shilin/shillings in 1989 and 1000 shilin/shillings in 1990. Also in 1990 there was an attempt to reform the currency at 100 to 1, with new banknotes of 20 and 50 new shilin prepared for the redenomination. [15]

Following the breakdown in central authority that accompanied the civil war, which began in the early 1990s, the value of the Somali shilling was disrupted. The Central Bank of Somalia, the nation's monetary authority, also shut down operations. Rival producers of the local currency, including autonomous regional entities such as the Somaliland territory, subsequently emerged.

Somalia's newly established Transitional Federal Government revived the defunct Central Bank of Somalia in the late 2000s. In terms of financial management, the monetary authority is in the process of assuming the task of both formulating and implementing monetary policy. [16] Owing to a lack of confidence in the Somali shilling, the US dollar is widely accepted as a medium of exchange alongside the Somali shilling. Dollarization notwithstanding, the large issuance of the Somali shilling has increasingly fueled price hikes, especially for low value transactions. This inflationary environment, however, is expected to come to an end as soon as the Central Bank assumes full control of monetary policy and replaces the presently circulating currency introduced by the private sector. [16]

Somaliland shilling

The Somaliland shilling is the official currency of Somaliland, a self-declared republic that is internationally recognised as an autonomous region of Somalia. [17] The currency is not recognised as legal tender by the international community, and it currently has no official exchange rate. It is regulated by the Bank of Somaliland, the territory's central bank. Although the authorities in Somaliland have attempted to bar usage of the Somali shilling, Somalia's official currency is still the preferred means of exchange for many peoples in the region. [18] [ better source needed ]


Elsewhere in the former British Empire, forms of the word shilling remain in informal use. In Vanuatu and Solomon Islands, selen is used in Bislama and Pijin to mean "money"; in Malaysia, syiling (pronounced like shilling) means "coin". In Egypt and Jordan the shillin (Arabic : شلن) is equal to 1/20th (five qirshesArabic : قرش, English: piastres ) of the Egyptian pound or the Jordanian dinar. In Belize, the term shilling is commonly used to refer to twenty-five cents.

Other countries

A Swedish Skilling from 1802. Skilling 1802, Nordisk familjebok.png
A Swedish Skilling from 1802.

Related Research Articles

Coins of the pound sterling British current and historic coinage

The standard circulating coinage of the United Kingdom, British Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories is denominated in pounds sterling, and, since the introduction of the two-pound coin in 1994, ranges in value from one penny to two pounds. Since decimalisation, on 15 February 1971, the pound has been divided into 100 (new) pence. Before decimalisation, twelve pence made a shilling, and twenty shillings made a pound. British coins are minted by the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales. The Royal Mint also commissions the coins' designs.

Penny unit of currency in various countries

A penny is a coin or a unit of currency in various countries. Borrowed from the Carolingian denarius, it is usually the smallest denomination within a currency system. Presently, it is the formal name of the British penny (abbr. p) and the informal name of the American one cent coin (abbr. ¢) as well as the informal Irish designation of the 1 cent euro coin (abbr. c). It is the informal name of the cent unit of account in Canada, although one cent coins are no longer minted there. The name is also used in reference to various historical currencies also derived from the Carolingian system, such as the French denier and the German pfennig. It may also be informally used to refer to any similar smallest-denomination coin, such as the euro cent or Chinese fen.

Decimalisation is the conversion of a system of currency or of weights and measures to units related by powers of 10.

Pound sterling Official currency of the United Kingdom and other territories

Pound sterling, known in some contexts simply as the pound or sterling, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Gibraltar, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, the British Antarctic Territory, and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence. The Pound sterling is the oldest currency in continuous use. A number of nations that do not use sterling also have currencies called the pound.

Irish pound currency

The Irish pound was the currency of Ireland until 2002. Its ISO 4217 code was IEP, and the usual notation was the prefix £. The Irish pound was replaced by the euro on 1 January 1999. Euro currency did not begin circulation until the beginning of 2002.

Solidus (coin) gold coin issued in the Late Roman Empire

The solidus, nomisma, or bezant was originally a relatively pure gold coin issued in the Late Roman Empire. Under Constantine, who introduced it on a wide scale, it had a weight of about 4.5 grams. It was largely replaced in Western Europe by Pepin the Short's currency reform, which introduced the silver-based pound/shilling/penny system, under which the shilling functioned as a unit of account equivalent to 12 pence, eventually developing into the French sou. In Eastern Europe, the nomisma was gradually debased by the Byzantine emperors until it was abolished by Alexius I in 1092, who replaced it with the hyperpyron, which also came to be known as a "bezant". The Byzantine solidus also inspired the originally slightly less pure dinar issued by the Muslim Caliphate.

Decimal Day 15 February 1971, when the UK and Ireland adopted decimal currency

Decimal Day in the United Kingdom and in Ireland was on 15 February 1971, the day on which each country decimalised its respective £sd currency of pounds, shillings, and pence. Before this date, in the United Kingdom, the British pound was made up of 20 shillings, each of which was made up of 12 pence, a total of 240 pence. With the decimalisation, the pound kept its old value and name, and the only changes were in relation to the subunits. The shilling was abolished, and the pound was subdivided into 100 "new pence", each of which was worth 2.4 "old pence". In Ireland, the Irish pound had a similar £sd currency structure and similar changes took place.

£sd pre-decimal currency system of the pound, shilling, and penny

£sd is the popular name for the pre-decimal currencies once common throughout Europe, especially in the British Isles and hence in several countries of the British Empire and subsequently the Commonwealth. The abbreviation originates from the Latin currency denominations librae, solidi, and denarii. In the United Kingdom, these were referred to as pounds, shillings, and pence.

The British West Indies dollar (BWI$) was the currency of British Guiana and the Eastern Caribbean territories of the British West Indies from 1949 to 1965, when it was largely replaced by the East Caribbean dollar, and was one of the currencies used in Jamaica from 1954 to 1964. The monetary policy of the currency was overseen by the British Caribbean Currency Board (BCCB). The British West Indies dollar was never used in British Honduras, the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas, or Bermuda.

Groschen was the name for a silver coin used in various states of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Somaliland shilling is the official currency of the Republic of Somaliland, a self-declared republic that is internationally recognized as an autonomous region of Somalia.

Non-decimal currency currency that has sub-units that are a non-decimal fraction of the main unit

A non-decimal currency is a currency that has sub-units that are a non-decimal fraction of the main unit, i.e. the number of sub-units in a main unit is not a power of 10. Historically, most currencies were non-decimal, though today virtually all are now decimal.

The Bermudian dollar is the official currency of the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda. It is subdivided into 100 cents. The Bermudian dollar is not normally traded outside Bermuda, and is pegged to the United States dollar at a one-to-one ratio. Both currencies circulate in Bermuda on an equal basis.

The Manx pound is the currency of the Isle of Man, in parity with the pound sterling. The Manx pound is divided into 100 pence. Notes and coins, denominated in pounds and pence, are issued by the Isle of Man Government.

Somali shilling currency of Somalia

The Somali shilling is the official currency of Somalia. It is subdivided into 100 senti, cents (English) or centesimi (Italian).

East African shilling currency issued for use in British controlled areas in East Africa from 1921 until 1969

The East African shilling was the currency issued for use in British controlled areas in East Africa from 1921 until 1969. It was produced by the East African Currency Board. It is also the proposed name for a common currency that the East African Community plans to introduce.

Canadian pound currency used in Canada (1841–1858)

The pound was the unit of account for currency of the Canadas until 1858. It was subdivided into 20 shillings (s), each of 12 pence (d). In Lower Canada, the sou was used, worth ​12 penny. Although the pounds, shillings, and pence accounting system had its origins in the British pound sterling, the Canadian pound was never formally linked to the British currency.

New Jersey pound

The pound was the money of account of New Jersey until 1793. Initially, the British pound and some foreign currencies circulated, supplemented from 1709 by local paper money. However, although the notes were denominated in pounds, shillings and pence, they did not have the same value as the British pound sterling or of other colonial currencies with denominations in pounds. A proclamation of Queen Anne, issued in 1704 and legislated by parliament in 1707, standardized the value of all colonial currencies at 6 colonial schillings to a full weight Spanish Milled Dollar, which was in turn equivalent to 4 shillings 6 pence sterling. This made a colonial schilling equivalent to nine pence sterling and a colonial pound equivalent to 2 troy oz 18 dwt 8 gr of silver. Currency issued at this rate was referred to as “Proclamation Money”.

Shilling (British coin) British pre-decimalisation coin

The shilling (1/-) was a coin worth one twentieth of a pound sterling, or twelve pence. It was first minted in the reign of Henry VII as the testoon, and became known as the shilling from the Old English scilling, sometime in the mid-16th century, circulating until 1990. The word bob was sometimes used for a monetary value of several shillings, e.g. "ten-bob note". Following decimalisation on 15 February 1971 the coin had a value of five new pence. It was made from silver from its introduction in or around 1503 until 1946, and thereafter in cupronickel.


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