noun, plural pen·nies, (especially collectively for 2, 3) pence.

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.

Origin of penny

before 900; Middle English peni, Old English penig, pænig, pen(n)ing, pending, cognate with Old Frisian penning, panning, Old Saxon, Dutch penning, Old High German pfenning, phantinc, phenting (German Pfennig), Old Norse penningr (perhaps < OE); < West Germanic or Germanic *pandingaz, probably equivalent to *pand- pawn2 + *-ingaz -ing3
Related formspen·nied, adjectiveun·pen·nied, adjective
Can be confusedpenne penny




a female given name, form of Penelope. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for penny

quarters, silver, copper, pennies, nickels, dimes, cent, farthing

Examples from the Web for penny

Contemporary Examples of penny

Historical Examples of penny

British Dictionary definitions for penny


noun plural pennies or pence (pɛns)

Also called (formerly): new penny (in Britain) a bronze coin having a value equal to one hundredth of a poundSymbol: 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 poundAbbreviation: d
a former monetary unit of the Republic of Ireland worth one hundredth of a pound
plural 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 British the least amount of moneyI don't have a penny
a bad penny informal, mainly British an objectionable person or thing (esp in the phrase turn up like a bad penny)
a pretty penny informal a considerable sum of money
spend a penny British informal to urinate
the penny dropped informal, mainly British the explanation of something was finally realized
two a penny plentiful but of little value

Word Origin for penny

Old English penig, pening; related to Old Saxon penni (n) g, Old High German pfeni (n) c, German Pfennig
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for penny

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with penny


In addition to the idioms beginning with penny

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

also see:

  • in for a penny, in for a pound
  • pinch pennies
  • pretty penny
  • turn up (like a bad penny)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.