1. of, relating to, or noting British money: The sterling equivalent is #5.50.
  2. (of silver) having the standard fineness of 0.925.
  3. made of silver of this fineness: a sterling teapot.
  4. thoroughly excellent: a man of sterling worth.
  1. British currency.
  2. the standard of fineness for gold and silver coin in the United Kingdom, 0.91666 for gold and 0.500 for silver.
  3. Also called sterling silver. silver having a fineness of 0.925, now used especially in the manufacture of table utensils, jewelry, etc.
  4. manufactured articles of sterling silver.
  5. sterling flatware.

Origin of sterling

1250–1300; Middle English: name of a silver coin (see star, -ling1), with reference to the little star on some of the mintages
Related formsster·ling·ly, adverbster·ling·ness, noun

Synonyms for sterling Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for sterling silver

sterling silver

  1. an alloy containing not less than 92.5 per cent of silver, the remainder usually being copper
  2. sterling-silver articles collectively


    1. British moneypound sterling
    2. (as modifier)sterling reserves
  1. the official standard of fineness of British coins: for gold 0.91666 and for silver 0.925
    1. short for sterling silver
    2. (as modifier)a sterling bracelet
  2. an article or articles manufactured from sterling silver
  3. a former British silver penny
  1. (prenominal) genuine and reliable; first-classsterling quality

Word Origin for sterling

C13: probably from Old English steorra star + -ling 1; referring to a small star on early Norman pennies; related to Old French esterlin


  1. Peter. born 1960, Australian rugby league player: played 18 matches for Australia (1982–88)
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 sterling silver


c.1300, "silver penny," probably from Middle English sterre (see star (n.)), from the stars that appeared in the design of certain Norman coins, + diminutive suffix -ling. The other theory is that it derives from Old French estedre "stater" (see stater).

Sense broadened by 1560s to "money having the quality of the sterling," and c.1600 to "English money in general." A pound sterling was originally "a pound weight of sterlings," equal to about 240 of them.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

sterling silver in Science

sterling silver

  1. An alloy that contains at least 92.5 percent silver and up to 7.5 percent copper or another metal, used to make jewelry and silverware.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.