The Pound Sign: Origin of the Pound Sign

Why do we use this “£” symbol to denote a British pound? What is the origin of the pound sign?

The pound sign is in fact a fancy letter “L”with a cross-bar through it (£). Some people write it with two lines through it (₤).

Why “L”?
L stands for “libra” which is the Latin word for pound in terms of weight (lb). When a word was abbreviated, medieval scribes would often note an abbreviation by putting a line through a letter. This is also done for the American cent symbol, ¢.

What has a pound of weight got to do with money?
The first pound coin was equivalent in value to one pound of silver.
One theory is that in Anglo-Saxon times there existed silver coins called sterlings, and 240 of these made up one pound of silver, which eventually became the value of one British pound.

To this day, the British pound is sometimes called a “pound sterling”. The word sterling is often linked to silver, as in “sterling silver” which is the main form of silver found. Pound sterling may hark back to the Latin term libræ sterilensium which referred to a Norman silver penny that was imprinted with a little star (a star-ling… sterling).

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