The shilling is a unit of currency used in current and former Commonwealth countries, and was continued to be used in countries that left the commonwealth, such as Ireland and Tanzania. The word is thought to derive from the base skell-, "to ring/resound", and the diminutive suffix -ing.

The abbreviation for shilling is s, from the Latin solidus, the name of a Roman coin. Often it was written informally or printed with a slash, e.g., 1/6d as 1 shilling and sixpence (often pronounced "one and six"), or when there were no pence with a slash then a hyphen, e.g., "11/-". Quite often a triangular shape or (sans serif) apostrophe would be used to give a neater appearance, e.g., "1'6" and "11'-". In Africa it is often abbreviated sh.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, a shilling was a coin used from the reign of Henry VII until decimalisation in 1971. Before decimalisation, there were twenty shillings to the pound and twelve pence to the shilling, and thus 240 pennies to the pound. Two coins denominated in multiple shillings were also in circulation at this time. They were the florin (2/-), which adopted the value of ten new pence (10p), and the crown (5/-), the highest denominated non-bullion UK coin in circulation at decimalisation. The word shilling comes from schilling, an accounting term that dates back to Anglo-Saxon times where it was deemed to be the value of a cow in Kent or a sheep elsewhere. Colonial shillings, such as the 1652 pine-tree shilling, were made in Massachusetts when the Puritans settled in America. At decimalisation, the shilling was superseded by the new five pence piece, which initially was of identical size and weight and had the same value, and inherited the shilling's slang name of a bob.

Irish shillings

In Ireland, the shilling was issued as scilling in Irish and was worth 1/20th of an Irish pound. The coin featured the bull on the obverse side. The original minting of the coin from 1928 until 1942 contained 75% silver; this Irish coin had a higher content than the equivalent British coin. The Irish shilling was finally withdrawn from circulation on January 1 1993 as a smaller five pence coin was introduced.

Australian shillings

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.

East African shillings

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 Northern Region of Somalia (former British Somaliland) and the Somali Somalo in the Southern Region (former Italian Somaliland) were replaced by the Somali Shilling. 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. Though all these currencies have different values at present, there are plans to reintroduce the East African shilling as a new common currency by 2009.

Other countries' shillings

Shillings were also issued in New Zealand before decimalisation in the 1960s, in Austria (Schilling) from 1925 until the advent of the Euro, in the Scandinavian countries (skilding) until the Scandinavian Monetary Union of 1873, and in the city of Hamburg, Germany.

The Sol (later the sou), both also derived from the Roman solidus, were the equivalent coins in France, while the (nuevo) sol (PEN) remains the currency of Peru. As in France, the Peruvian sol was originally named after the Roman solidus, but the name of the Peruvian currency is now much more closely linked to the Spanish word for the sun (sol). This helps explain the name of its temporary replacement, the inti, named for the Incan sun god.

Shillings were also used in Malta, prior to decimalization in 1972, and had a face value of five Maltese cents.

Other countries that were in the British Empire still use the term shilling or the local variant informally as a unit of currency among the local populace. In Vanuatu and Solomon Islands, the word "selen" (shilling) is used in Bislama and Pijin to mean "money" and in Egypt and Jordan the Shillin (Arabic: شلن) is equal to 1/20th of the Egyptian pound or the Jordanian dinar. In the United States during colonial times, British money was used, and references to shillings are often seen in early American literature.


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