Thursday, November 14, 2019

Language of Confusion: Payment, Part I

Not a big multiparter. I think.

Pay showed up in the thirteenth century from the Old French paier, to pay or pay up. That word is from the classical Latin pacare, to pacify, and I mean, yeah, you can definitely pacify someone by paying them. That pacare actually comes from pax, peace, which is the origin for peace and can be traced to the Proto Indo European pag-, tofasten. Which obviously needs to be looked at closer. But that’s for another post.

Money showed up in the mid thirteenth century as monie, meaning funds or anything that can be converted into money before settling to mean cash. It’s from the classical Latin moneta, money, which is actually from Moneta (with a capital M), a title or surname for the Roman goddess Juno Moneta. See, it just so happened that she had a temple near where money was coined and precious metal stored. That Moneta actually comes from the verb monere, which actually means to warn and is actually related to monitor. So because money was made near Juno’s temple, we have money.

Cash actually didn’t show up until the late sixteenth century, and get this, it first meant a money box, not meaning what we know it as until later (before the eighteenth century, where the new definition was the only one people knew it as). Cash comes from the Middle French caisse, money box, from the Provençal caissa or Italian cassa, cash desk, derived from the classical Latin capsa, box. Oh, and that capsa is from case. Remember all those weeks we spent going over those words? Not really sure why I didn’t mention cash, but there it is. And, to specify, it’s related to the version of case that comes from the Proto Indo European kap-, to grasp.

Finally today, bill. Obviously not like a bill you’d find on a duck. In a shocking moment of sense, that’s not related at all. Bill showed up in the late fourteenth century meaning a written statement before morphing to a formal document or a personal letter, and then a order of payment in the late sixteenth century, and then finally a paper bill in the mid seventeenth century. It comes from the Anglo French bille, from the Anglo Latin billa, a writing or a list, from the Medieval Latin bulla, decree or sealed document. It’s funny because in classical Latin, bulla could mean boss… or bubble. Basically, a bulla was a round knob, like an amulet, which is like a seal, so it was a sealed document, and that starts the crazy convoluted journey to it being a dollar bill.



  1. You could do one on bill alone since it has so many meanings.

  2. Considering the importance we place on money, I'm surprised these words evolved as much as they did.

  3. So, then, is "cash" related to "cache"?


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