£ s d

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The abbreviation £ s d stands for Pounds, shillings and pence, the name of the former currency of the UK. The phrase used to be spoken, often as a synonym for 'money, or 'price' or similar. It was pronounced as if it were the three letters l, s, and d - 'ell-ess-dee'.

The initials stand for the even older Roman currency. They are short for three Latin words:

  • £ is and was the pound. It stands for librum, a Latin word meaning 'a pound by weight (of silver)'. It has the bar £ (more traditionally a double bar, ) to distinguish it from a capital L.
  • s was the shilling. It was the equivalent of 5p in modern currency: there were twenty shillings in a pound. (The letter s actually stands for solidus, a Roman coin worth about 25 denarii.)
  • d was the penny - more precisely, it is an 'old penny'. There were 240 pennies in a pound, 12 in each shilling. So an old penny was the equivalent of less than half a modern penny. In Roman coinage, this was the denarius.

When actual sums of money were being written, by the twentieth century it was usual to write the three units separated only by slashes (called solidus by old printers for this reason) after the £ sign: £20/10/6 meant 'twenty pounds, ten shillings and six pence'; £1/13/4 meant 'One pound, thirteen shillings and fourpence'. A sum in round pounds , for example 'ten pounds', was written with hyphens as £10/-/-, and a sum less than a pound was written with one solidus: 2/6 was two shillings and sixpence (or half a crown. The phrase £ s d was only pronounced to mean 'cash' or 'money'. It was written at the heads of columns in account books and such places.

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