Money terms can be grouped into three main categories: English, foreign, and terms expressive of tiny amounts. The pre-1971 pound (Ł) consisted of 20 shillings (s), with each shilling consisting of 12 pence (d), and each penny consisting of two halfpennies or four farthings. In Shakespeare’s day, coins of several different intermediate denominations were in circulation. References to foreign coins were usually notional, suggestive of large amounts or small amounts, rather than conveying any precise value; the equivalent English values of the time, which are added below, are at best approximate. The terms which express the idea of a tiny amount are given with a quotation to illustrate the sense.

English Small value amounts

Unit Example Value
obolus / ob 1H4 II.iv.524 halfpenny
halfpence AYL III.ii.341 silver halfpenny
three farthings LLL III.i.135 coin of this value
penny LLL III.i.137 coin of this value
twopence MW I.i.145 silver coin of this value
threepence H8 II.iii.36 coin of this value
groat 2H4 I.ii.237 fourpenny piece
mill-sixpence MW I.i.144 sixpence made in a stamping mill
sixpence 2H4 I.ii.25 coin of this value
tester MW I.iii.82 sixpenny piece
testril TN II.iii.32 sixpenny piece
shilling 2H6 IV.vii.19 coin of this value

Large value amounts

Unit Example Value
angel CE IV.iii.40 gold coin; value: between 6s 8p and 10s at various times; design displayed Archangel Michael
noble 1H6 V.iv.23 gold coin; value: third of a pound, 6s 8d
royal R2 V.v.67 gold coin; value: 10 shillings
Harry ten shillings 2H4 III.ii.216 half-sovereign coin from the reign of Henry VII; value: 5s
pound MW V.v.113 [as in modern English]


Unit Example Value
chequin Per IV.ii.24 gold coin of Italy and Turkey; equivalent English value: about 8s
crown AYL I.i.2 gold coin, of varying value in different countries; English coin, value: 5s
crusado Oth III.iv.26 Portuguese gold coin; equivalent English value: about 3s
dollar Mac I.ii.65 [= thaler] German silver coin; also in other countries with varying value; equivalent English value: about 5s
drachma JC III.ii.243 Greek silver coin of varying but significant value, also used in surrounding countries [cf. below]
ducat MV I.iii.1 gold (sometimes silver) coin used in several European countries, with varying value; in Italy, equivalent English value: between a fifth and a third of a pound (in Italy, about 3s 6d)
guilder CE I.i.8 gold coin used in parts of Europe
mark H8 V.i.170 accounting unit in England; value: two-thirds of a pound (13s 4d); name of a coin, in some countries
talent Tim I.i.99 high-value accounting unit in some ancient countries; equivalent English value unclear: perhaps Ł200

Tiny amounts

Unit Example Value
cardecue AW IV.iii.270 for a cardecue he will see the fee-simple of his salvation [= quart d'ecu] French silver coin of little value; equivalent English value: about 8d
denier 1H4 III.iii.78 I’ll not pay a denier French copper coin of little value, 12th of a sou (which was a 20th of a livre); equivalent English value, 10th of a penny
doit MV I.iii.137 I would ... take no doit / Of usance for my moneys Dutch coin of little value; equivalent English value, half a farthing
drachma Cor I.v.5 See here these movers that do prize their hours / At a cracked drachma coin assumed to be of small value [cf. above]
eight penny 1H4 III.iii.103 [of a ring] A trifle, some eightpenny matter conventional expression for a trivial amount
forty pence H8 II.iii.89 Is it bitter? Forty pence, no proverbial for a small sum; the standard amount of a bet or fee
solidare Tim III.i.43 Here’s three solidares for thee not a known coin; perhaps derived from the solidus (Roman gold coin); expressive of a paltry sum

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