a bronze coin, the 100th part of the dollars of various nations, as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States; one cent.
Also called new penny. a bronze coin and monetary unit of the United Kingdom and various other nations, the 100th part of a pound.
Abbreviation: p.
a former bronze coin and monetary unit of the United Kingdom and various other nations, the 12th part of a shilling: use phased out in 1971.
Abbreviation: d.
a sum of money:
He spent every penny he ever earned.
the length of a nail in terms of certain standard designations from twopenny to sixtypenny.
Stock Exchange. of, relating to, or being penny stock:
frenzied speculation in the penny market.
a bad penny, someone or something undesirable.
a pretty penny, Informal. a considerable sum of money:
Their car must have cost them a pretty penny.
spend a penny, Chiefly British Slang. to urinate: from the former cost of using a public lavatory.
turn an honest penny, to earn one’s living honestly; make money by fair means:
He’s never turned an honest penny in his life.
a female given name, form of Penelope.
Contemporary Examples

While there I am, getting mad at my wife for sending me cards all the time because I know she needs every penny right now.
Deep Thoughts from War Machine’s Sexist, Racist Prison Blog Melissa Leon August 20, 2014

Megan clearly reminds him of penny, the daughter he lost and kept locked away even after she turned into a zombie.
Will the Governor and Carol Join Forces? The Walking Dead’s David Morrissey Says It’s a Good Theory Melissa Leon November 17, 2013

But even after the Tropicana transferred to the Ramada hotel chain, Briggs said she “never received a penny.”
The Ballad of Mitzi Stauffer Briggs, Heiress Who Lost It All in Vegas John L. Smith September 29, 2013

In October, average hourly earnings actually fell by a penny.
Jobs Report Proves the Economy Is on the Upswing Daniel Gross November 1, 2012

penny and Leonard are coming to terms with his unexpected marriage proposal.
‘Homeland,’ ‘Revenge,’ ‘The Good Wife,’ ‘Sons of Anarchy’ and More: Where We Left Off Jace Lacob, Maria Elena Fernandez September 9, 2012

Historical Examples

And that the whole thing, therefore, is going to pieces with every penny invested in it.
The Arbiter Lady F. E. E. Bell

Obulus, (plural Oboli)—A small coin, about the value of a penny.
Philothea Lydia Maria Child

He had never been seen to spend a penny, unless it was to save twopence.
The Cock-House at Fellsgarth Talbot Baines Reed

Sir, you once gave me a penny, and you have since embezzled my fortune.
Punchinello, Vol. 1, No. 2, April 9, 1870 Various

The wooden object had not yet caught fire, and penny could still see it plainly.
Whispering Walls Mildred A. Wirt

noun (pl) pennies, pence (pɛns)
Also called (formerly) new penny. (in Britain) a bronze coin having a value equal to one hundredth of a pound p
(in Britain before 1971) a bronze or copper coin having a value equal to one twelfth of a shilling or one two-hundred-and-fortieth of a pound d
a former monetary unit of the Republic of Ireland worth one hundredth of a pound
(pl) pennies. (in the US and Canada) a cent
a coin of similar value, as used in several other countries
(used with a negative) (informal, mainly Brit) the least amount of money: I don’t have a penny
(informal, mainly Brit) a bad penny, an objectionable person or thing (esp in the phrase turn up like a bad penny)
(informal) a pretty penny, a considerable sum of money
(Brit, informal) spend a penny, to urinate
(informal, mainly Brit) the penny dropped, the explanation of something was finally realized
two a penny, plentiful but of little value

Old English pening, penig, Northumbrian penning “penny,” from Proto-Germanic *panninggaz (cf. Old Norse penningr, Swedish pänning, Danish penge, Old Frisian panning, Old Saxon pending, Middle Dutch pennic, Dutch penning, Old High German pfenning, German Pfennig, not recorded in Gothic, where skatts is used instead), of unknown origin.

Offa’s reformed coinage on light, broad flans is likely to have begun c.760-5 in London, with an awareness of developments in Francia and East Anglia. … The broad flan penny established by Offa remained the principal denomination, with only minor changes, until the fourteenth century. [Anna Gannon, “The Iconography of Early Anglo-Saxon Coinage,” Oxford, 2003]

The English coin was originally set at one-twelfth of a shilling and was of silver, later copper, then bronze. There are two plural forms: pennies of individual coins, pence collectively. In translations it rendered various foreign coins of small denomination, especially Latin denarius, whence comes its abbreviation d.

As American English colloquial for cent, it is recorded from 1889. Penny-a-liner “writer for a journal or newspaper” is attested from 1834. Penny dreadful “cheap and gory fiction” dates from c.1870. Phrase penny-wise and pound-foolish is recorded from c.1600. Penny-pincher “miserly person” is recorded from 1906 (as an adjective penny-pinching is recorded from 1858, American English). Penny loafers attested from 1960.

(Gr. denarion), a silver coin of the value of about 7 1/2d. or 8d. of our present money. It is thus rendered in the New Testament, and is more frequently mentioned than any other coin (Matt. 18:28; 20:2, 9, 13; Mark 6:37; 14:5, etc.). It was the daily pay of a Roman soldier in the time of Christ. In the reign of Edward III. an English penny was a labourer’s day’s wages. This was the “tribute money” with reference to which our Lord said, “Whose image and superscription is this?” When they answered, “Caesar’s,” he replied, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:19; Mark 12:15).

penny for your thoughts, a
penny pincher
penny saved is a penny earned, a
penny wise and pound foolish


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