Word of the Week (204): MARAVEDI (probability 8028), by David Sutton

A MARAVEDI was a small copper coin formerly used in Spain. Simon Winchester in his excellent book 'Atlantic' relates the story that Columbus rewarded the lookout who first sighted the New World with five thousand maravedis. This sounds quite a lot, but a maravedi was valued at just one thirty-fourth of a REAL, and a real itself was one eighth of a Spanish PESO (hence the expression 'pieces of eight'), so it was probably just about enough to stand his mates a round of drinks when they finally got there, except of course that they couldn't find a pub anyway. ('Remind me again why we came').

There is no shortage of words for obsolete coins. To mention but a few of the more exotic, the DARIC was a gold coin of ancient Persia. Another Persian coin was the SIGLOS (plural SIGLOI). The PAHLAVI was a gold coin of Iran. The DUCATOON was a silver coin used in Venice and elsewhere. The KOBAN (or KOBANG or OBANG) was an obsolete gold coin of Japan. The CARDECU or CARDECUE was an old French silver coin. The NAPOLEON was an obsolete French gold coin worth twenty francs. The PISTAREEN was a Spanish silver coin of the value of about twenty cents. The JOHANNES or JOANNES was a Portuguese gold coin, named from the figure of King John which it bore. Another Portuguese gold coin was the PORTAGUE or PORTIGUE, and Portugal also gives us the MOIDORE (from Portuguese moeda d'ouro, coin of gold), which was actually accepted as a currency in England in the first half of the 18th century.

Turning to Britain, the THRIMSA or THRYMSA was an Anglo-Saxon gold coin. The FLORENCE was a gold coin of the time of Edward III, of six shillings sterling value.The CAROLUS (plural CAROLI or CAROLUSES) was a former English gold coin, first struck in the reign of Charles I. The JACOBUS (plural JACOBUSES) was an English gold coin, struck in the reign of James I.


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