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A 1933 English shilling

The shilling is a unit of currency used in some current and former English Commonwealth countries. 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. 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 informally represented by a slash, standing for a Long s: e.g., "1/6d" meaning 1 shilling and sixpence (often pronounced "one and six"); a price with no pence was written with a slash and a dash, e.g., "11/–". Quite often a triangle or (serif) apostrophe would be used to give a neater appearance, e.g., "1'6" and "11'-". In Africa it is often abbreviated sh.

1956 Elizabeth II UK shilling showing English and Scottish reverses

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdommarker, a shilling was a coin used from the reign of Henry VII until decimalisation in 1971. Before decimalisation, there were 20 shillings/pound and 12 pence/shilling, and thus 240 pence/pound. Two coins denominated in multiple shillings were also in circulation at this time. They were the florin, which adopted the value of 10 new pence (10p), and the crown, the highest denominated non-bullion UK coin in circulation at decimalisation. At decimalisation, the shilling was superseded by the new 5 pence piece, which initially was of identical size and weight and had the same value, and inherited the shilling's slang name of a bob.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

Irish shilling 1954

In Irelandmarker, 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 1941 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 The Irish shilling was finally withdrawn from circulation on January 1, 1993 as a smaller five pence coin was introduced.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 , 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.

Countries in Africa where the currency is called Shilling

East African shillings

The East African shilling was in use in the Britishmarker colonies and protectorates of British Somaliland, Kenyamarker, Tanganyika, Uganda and Zanzibarmarker 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 Somaliamarker (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.

Austrian schilling

The Austrian schilling was the currency of Austria between 1924 and 1938 and again between 1945 and 2002. It was replaced by the euro at a fixed parity of €1 = 13.7603 Schilling. The Schilling was divided into 100 Groschen.

Other countries' shillings

Shillings were also issued in New Zealandmarker before decimalisation in the 1960s, in the Scandinavian countries (skilding) until the Scandinavian Monetary Union of 1873, and in the city of Hamburgmarker, Germany.

The Sol (later the sou), both also derived from the Roman solidus, were the equivalent coins in Francemarker, while the (nuevo) sol (PEN) remains the currency of Perumarker. 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 Maltamarker, prior to decimalization in 1972, and had a face value of five Maltese cents.

Elsewhere in the former British Empire, forms of the word shilling remain in informal use.In Vanuatumarker and Solomon Islandsmarker, selen is used in Bislama and Pijin to mean "money"; in Malaysiamarker, syiling (pronounced like shilling) means "coin". In Egyptmarker and Jordanmarker the shillin ( ) 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. Colonial shillings, such as the 1652 pine-tree shilling, were made in Massachusettsmarker when the Puritans settled in America. After the United States adopted the dollar as its unit of currency and accepted the gold standard, one British shilling was worth 24 U.S. cents.


  1. shilling - Definitions from
  2. Description of Somalia shilling - URL retrieved October 8, 2006
  3. Dissolution of the East African Monetary Union - URL retrieved October 8, 2006
  4. East African Business Council - Fact Sheet: Customs Union - URL Retrieved October 8, 2002

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