What IS a Pound Sterling?


I know it’s the UK currency but if you look at a ten pound note it says on it “I Promise to Pay the Bearer on demand the sum of ten pounds”.

If I walked into the Bank of England with a tenner and asked for ten pounds, what would I get? Apart from some funny looks.

In: 1

you would get (in exchange for the one you give them) either another £10 note, or 10 x £1 coins or 2 x £5 notes or multiple other mixes of coins and or at least 1 x £5 note along with coins that total up to the £10 ie the face value of the original British bank note that you give them or any other denomination of British bank note you care to hand them

because that’s exactly what it means the bearer or holder of said bank note whatever value it states in the printed design is holding that exact value in British currency, and that’s what it’s worth in monetary value

if you just demand the money or that value in a bank that’s technically a bank robbery/ a crime 🤦🏻‍♂️

It was originally a pound of sterling silver. But money hasn’t been tied to anything real in a long time.

In Old English, one of the languages that gave rise to what we call English today, there was a word, *steorra,* which meant “star.” In the twelfth century, the *Norman* kingdom (this word taken from both the Norse people and also Normandy) used little silver pennies with little stars marked on them as currency. Adding
“-ling” to the word *steorra,* then, gives us *steorraling,* which eventually drifted to “sterling” over time.

A pound sterling would literally be a pound, by weight, of these little silver coins.

Nowadays, of course, the term “pound” has no connection to the actual weight anymore; you couldn’t ask for a pound of sterling and expect to get anything.

A ten pound note is essentially a voucher, issued and guaranteed by the Bank of England, which any merchant will exchange for £10 of goods.

Originally the BoE may have given you £10’s worth of gold, which is “independent” of the currency and valuable across the world. We dropped the gold standard in 1931, and it’s now worth £10 because everyone believes it is.

“Sterling” is actually the name of the currency, and is divided into pounds and pence. The name maybe come from an old Norman coin which had a “steorra”, or star, on it, hence “star-ling”.