In Britain, having a few extra pounds isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Only, that is, if those pounds are in someone’s pocket rather than around his waist.
The British pound sterling was originally based on the cost of a troy pound of silver. The troy pound is what’s used to measure valuable metals, such as gold and silver.
The term “sterling” goes back nearly 1,000 years, explained Kevin Clancy, curator of the Royal Mint museum in London.
“It’s based on a word from around William the Conqueror’s time,” he said. “There’s a French word that … means ‘reliable’ and it came to relate to the British currency.”
British banks were considered more stable than those on mainland Europe, and people would refer to British money as being “sterling,” as in reliable.
“Still the meaning of the word carries on,” he said. “People talk about the pound sterling, and they’ve become synonymous.”
So, prices can be quoted in pounds, pounds sterling or even just sterling.
The British currency itself is based on the decimal system where, 100 pence equals 1 pound sterling, said Clancy.
The pound symbol, £, derives from the Latin word libra, which means, no surprise here, pound.