[ pen-ee-wurth ]
/ ˈpɛn iˌwɜrθ /
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noun Archaic.
as much as may be bought for a penny: a pennyworth of candy.
a small quantity: He chimed in with a grudging pennyworth of praise.
a bargain.


Pennyworth: Visual Word of the Day

Nothing haunts us like the things we don't buy...especially when there's a great pennyworth!

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Origin of pennyworth

First recorded before 1000; Middle English penyworth, Old English penigweorth; see origin at penny, worth1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does pennyworth mean?

A pennyworth is as much as you can buy for a penny, as in I’ll have a pennyworth of licorice, sir. 

It can also be used in a figurative way to mean a very small amount, as in He doesn’t have a pennyworth of common sense, or a bargain, as in We can get it for a pennyworth!

Pennyworth is an old-fashioned word that’s rarely used literally, due to the fact that nothing costs a penny anymore. Its figurative use is also uncommon.

Pennyworth is sometimes abbreviated as penn’orth. It’s most closely associated with its use in the U.K. Although the word penny is often used in the U.S. as an informal name for the one-cent coin officially known as the cent, the penny in pennyworth referred for much of the word’s history to the former British penny (pluralized as pence), which was worth one twelfth of a shilling. The related term halfpennyworth (sometimes abbreviated as ha’p’orth) refers to an amount that could be bought for a halfpenny.

Example: My great grandmother used to tell me stories about going to the shop and buying a pennyworth of candy.

Where does pennyworth come from?

The first records of the word pennyworth come from before 1000. It comes from the Old English word penigweorth, which is a combination of the words that preceded penny and worth.

Pennyworth and halfpennyworth are no longer commonly used, and the same goes for even more old-timey-sounding terms like tuppence worth. However, worth is still commonly used in the same way in similar terms like dollar’s worth, as in I bought nine dollar’s worth of fabric. 

In pop culture, the word serves as the last name of Alfred Pennyworth, trusty British butler of Bruce Wayne and confidant of Wayne’s alter-ego, Batman.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to pennyworth?

  • penn’orth (contracted spelling)

What are some synonyms for pennyworth?

What are some words that share a root or word element with pennyworth

What are some words that often get used in discussing pennyworth?

What are some words pennyworth may be commonly confused with?

How is pennyworth used in real life?

The word pennyworth is not commonly used anymore. Its literal use is especially rare.



Try using pennyworth!

True or False? 

Pennyworth can be used figuratively to mean a small amount.

How to use pennyworth in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for pennyworth

/ (ˈpɛnɪˌwɜːθ) /

the amount that can be bought for a penny
a small amounthe hasn't got a pennyworth of sense
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