Little bits of metal worth money.

Typically, these are round and flat (discs), but different countries do this differently.

Originally coins were simply stamped pieces of metal that didn't need to be weighed because the stamp certified what weight and purity they were. Later metal money was replaced with paper that signified the original metal. These days, money has no intrinsic value except what is assigned to it by the market, and coins simply represent (usually small) portions of that kind of money. To "coin" originally means to stamp metal as coins are stamped to put the cute stuff on each side that makes it a "coin" instead of a disc of metal.

Originally, in the Western world, coins were pieces of a metal which was worth something in itself (gold, silver) so the value of the coin was dependent on how much metal was in it and could be decreased by clipping the edges off. However, much of Asia tended to make coins out of relatively low-value metals throughout history, and rely on the power of the issuing government to give the coin value, just as they did with paper money. It was the late 20th century before many Western countries abandoned the idea that coins were only worth the value of their weight in metal. But now coins are generally made of materials chosen for durability and availability so that the value is arbitarily set by the issuer of the coin.

Source: Bernstein, Peter L. The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000.

Coin is also slang for money, used in a collective sense.

Example: "Dave shelled out some serious coin on his girlfriend's boob job."

See also: dough, cash, scratch, scrilla (alternately spelled skrilla), moolah (alternately spelled moola), bank, green, cheese or cheddar.

Coin (koin), n. [F. coin, formerly also coing, wedge, stamp, corner, fr. L. cuneus wedge; prob. akin to E. cone, hone. See Hone, n., and cf. Coigne, Quoin, Cuneiform.]

1.

A quoin; a corner or external angle; a wedge. See Coigne, and Quoin.

2.

A piece of metal on which certain characters are stamped by government authority, making it legally current as money; -- much used in a collective sense.

It is alleged that it [a subsidy] exceeded all the current coin of the realm.
Hallam.

3.

That which serves for payment or recompense.

The loss of present advantage to flesh and blood is repaid in a nobler coin.
Hammond.

Coin balance. See Illust. of Balance. -- To pay one in his own coin, to return to one the same kind of injury or ill treatment as has been received from him. [Colloq.]

 

© Webster 1913.


Coin, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Coined (koind); p. pr. & vb. n. Coining.]

1.

To make of a definite fineness, and convert into coins, as a mass of metal; to mint; to manufacture; as, to coin silver dollars; to coin a medal.

2.

To make or fabricate; to invent; to originate; as, to coin a word.

Some tale, some new pretense, he daily coined,
To soothe his sister and delude her mind.
Dryden.

3.

To acquire rapidly, as money; to make.

Tenants cannot coin rent just at quarter day.
Locke.

 

© Webster 1913.


Coin, v. i.

To manufacture counterfeit money.

They cannot touch me for coining.
Shak.

 

© Webster 1913.

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