Groat (coin)

Groat (coin)

Groat is the traditional name of an English silver coin worth four English pennies, and also a Scottish coin originally worth fourpence, with later issues being valued at eightpence and a shilling.


The name has also been applied to any thick or large coin, such as the "Groschen" ("grosso"), a silver coin issued by Tyrol in 1271 and Venice in the 13th century, which was the first of this general size to circulate in the Holy Roman Empire and other parts of Europe. The immediate ancestor to the groat was the French "gros tournois" or groat of Tours, which was known as the "groot" (Dutch for "great" or "large") in the Netherlands.

The name groat also refers to a range of other European coins such as those of the Italian peninsula known as a "grosso" including the grosso of Venice. Marco Polo referred to the groat in recounts of his travels to East Asia when describing the currencies of the Yuan Empire. [Henry Yule. "The Travels of Marco Polo: The Complete Yule-Cordier Edition". Third edition (1903), revised and updated by Henri Cordier. Plain Label Books. p. 1226-27. (ISBN 1603036156)] His descriptions were based on the conversion of 1 bezant = 20 groats = 133⅓ tornesel. [Henry Yule. "The Travels of Marco Polo: The Complete Yule-Cordier Edition". Third edition (1903), revised and updated by Henri Cordier. Plain Label Books. p. 1229-30. (Note) (ISBN 1603036156)]


Coin image box 1 double
header = David II of Scotland
hbkg = #abcdef

caption_left = ++DAVID x REX x SCOTORVm Crowned bust left holding sceptre before; star at base of sceptre
caption_right = Outer circle: +DNS PTECTOR MS F LIBATOR MS - inner circle: VILL A ED InBV RGh Long cross quartered with of five points mullets.
width = 300
footer = AR Groat (3.11 g). Light coinage, 1367-1371. Edinburgh mint.
position = right
margin = 0
Coin image box 1 double
header = Henry VIII: Irish groat
hbkg = #abcdef

caption_left = hEnRIC VIII DI GR REX AnGLIE, crowned coat-of-arms over cross fourchee; mm: trefoil
caption_right = FRAnCIE ET hIBERnIE REX, crowned harp; crowned h and crowned R flanking (henricus Rex).
width = 300
footer = AR Groat (25mm, 2.32 gm, 12h). Second harp issue, as king of Ireland, 1541-1542. London mint (exported).
position = right
margin = 0
It was after the French silver coin had circulated in England that an English groat was first minted under King Edward I.

Scots groats were not issued until the reign of David II. Scots groats were originally also worth fourpence, but later issues were valued at eightpence and a shilling.Mackay: "Coin"...] Stewart: "Scottish"...]

Irish groats were minted first in 1425 and the last ones were minted under the reign of Elizabeth I of England. There were also two more issues, both emergency coinage. Grueber: "Handbook"...]

While strictly speaking, the English groat should have contained four pennyweights or 96 grains (6.2 grams) of sterling silver, the first ones issued weighed 89 grains (5.8 g) and later issues became progressively lighter. The weight was reduced to 72 grains (three pennyweights or 4.7 g) under Edward III, 60 grains (3.9 g) under Henry IV, and 48 grains (3.1 g) under Edward IV. From 1544 to 1560 (the weight being reduced to 32 grains (2.1 g) in 1559) the silver fineness was less than sterling, and after the 1561 issue they were not generally issued for circulation again for about a hundred years.

From the reigns of Charles II to George III, groats (by now often known as fourpences) were issued on an irregular basis for general circulation, the only years of mintage after 1786 being in 1792, 1795, and 1800. After this the only circulating issues were from 1836 to 1855, with proofs known from 1857 and 1862 and a colonial issue of 1888. These last coins had the weight further reduced to about 27 grains (1.9 grams) and were the same diameter as the silver threepenny pieces of the day although thicker. They also had Britannia on the reverse, while all other silver fourpenny pieces since the reign of William and Mary have had a crowned numeral "4" as the reverse, including the silver fourpenny Maundy money coins of the present. Some groats continued to circulate in Scotland until the 20th century.

At times in the past, silver twopenny coins have been called "half-groats."

Cultural references

The word "groat" has entered into a number of English and Scottish expressions, many of them now archaic.

In the north of England, there is the saying "Blood without groats is nothing" meaning "family without fortune is worthless." The allusion is to black-pudding, which consists chiefly of blood and oats formed into a sausage. "Not worth a groat" is an old saying meaning "not worth a penny", i.e. worthless.

Benjamin Franklin, in his book, "Necessary Hints" gives the following thrifty advice:

:He that spends a groat a day idly, spends idly above six pounds a year."

In Beatrix Potter's "The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin", there is the following riddle::"Riddle me, riddle me, rot-tot-tote! A little wee man in a red red coat! A staff in his hand, and a stone in his throat; If you'll tell me this riddle, I'll give you a groat."

The answer is a cherry.

According to Hawkins' "History of the Silver Coins of England" [ [,M1 Hawkins : Silver Coins of England, London, MDCCCXLI. p.257] ] , groats were also known as "Joeys",

:"so called from Joseph Hume, M.P., who strongly recommended the coinage for the sake of paying short cab-fares, etc."This refers to the Victorian four-penny piece. The mention of cab fares is related to the fact that the standard minimum was four pence, so many passengers paid with a six-penny piece, allowing the cabby to keep the two pence change as a tip. The slang name "Joey" was transferred to the silver / cupronickel three-penny pieces in use in the first third of the twentieth century.

John o' Groats, commonly (and mistakenly) regarded as the most northerly part of the Scottish mainland, despite its name has nothing to do with the coin, but is in fact a corruption of "Jan de Groot", the name of a Dutchman who migrated there, in the reign of James IV [] []

ee also

* British coinage
* Scottish coinage



* "Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable" (1898)
* James Mackay - John Mussel (eds.): Coin Price Guide to British coins, Token Publishing Ltd, Axminster, Devon
* Ian Halley Stewart. The Scottish Coinage, Spink & Son, Londra, 1955

External links

* [ British Coins] - Free information about British coins. Includes an online forum.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Groat — may refer to: *Groat (coin), one of several coins formerly used in England, Ireland, and Scotland. *Groat (grain), a form of processed cereal grain. *A road that becomes St. Albert Trail. *Groat Bridge, which is part of Groat Road. *Groat… …   Wikipedia

  • Groat — Groat, n. [LG. gr[=o]te, orig., great, that is, a great piece of coin, larger than other coins in former use. See {Great}.] 1. An old English silver coin, equal to four pence. [1913 Webster] 2. Any small sum of money. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • groat — medieval European coin, late 14c., probably from M.Du. groot, elliptical use of adj. meaning great, big (in sense of thick ); see GREAT (Cf. great). Recognized from 13c. in various nations, in 14c. it was roughly one eighth an ounce of silver;… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Groat — Coin first issued at Edward I s major recoinage of 1279, with the halfpenny and the *farthing. It was worth 4d, weighing 89 grains (0.2 ounce). It was not a success, being poor quality with its weight out of proportion to its value, while its… …   Dictionary of Medieval Terms and Phrases

  • groat — [grəut US grout] n a former British coin that had a low value …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • groat — [ grout ] noun count a coin of low value that was used in the past in England …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • groat — ► NOUN historical ▪ an English silver coin worth four old pence. ORIGIN from Dutch groot or Low German gr te great, thick , hence thick penny …   English terms dictionary

  • groat — [grōt] n. [ME grote < MDu groot or MLowG grote, lit., GREAT, mistransl. of MHG grosse, short for ML (denarius) grossus, lit., gross (i.e., thick) (denarius): see GROSS] 1. an obsolete English silver coin worth fourpence 2. a trifling sum …   English World dictionary

  • groat — UK [ɡrəʊt] / US [ɡroʊt] noun [countable] Word forms groat : singular groat plural groats a coin of low value that was used in the past in England …   English dictionary

  • groat — n. hist. 1 a silver coin worth four old pence. 2 archaic a small sum (don t care a groat). Etymology: ME f. MDu. groot, orig. = great, i.e. thick (penny): cf. GROSCHEN …   Useful english dictionary

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