Which is correct, “cent” or “penny”?

February 25, 2017 | Author: | Posted in General Knowledge

Penny is not the official and legal designation of any coin minted by the United States. It is merely a colloquial name for the American one-cent piece. Penny, however, has been applied to the American cent since the beginning of the United States coinage system. Until after the Revolution the English penny circulated freely in the United States.

Although one-cent pieces had been previously issued by several of the states, cent as the official name of a national coin appeared for the first time in an act of Congress approved August 8, 1786. That law prescribed, “Cents: The highest copper piece, of which 100 shall be equal to the dollar.” On October 16 of the same year Congress ordained, “That no foreign copper coin whatsoever, shall after the first day of September, 1787, be current within the United States of America.” This law removed the English penny from circulation in the United States, but penny was transferred to the cent in popular usage and has tenaciously clung to it ever since.

One reason for this is the fact that penny, which is derived from an ancient Teutonic root of unknown origin, is a more literary word than cent. Americans still use penny in such sayings as, “Penny-wise and pound-foolish,” “A penny for your thoughts,” and “turn an honest penny,” and in such phrases as, “penny postage,” “penny-in-the-slot machines,” “penny whistle,” “penny newspapers,” and penny ante.” But in the United States the plural of penny is always pennies and never pence.

An English penny is worth about two American cents, the English halfpenny being equivalent to the American cent.

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