The shilling (or informally: bob) was a British coin first issued in 1548 for Henry VIII, although arguably the testoon issued about 1487 for Henry VII was the first shilling.

Missing image
1956 Elizabeth II British shilling showing English and Scottish reverses


Before decimalisation in 1971, shillings had a value of 12 pence; equal to one-twentieth of a pound. (There were 240 pence in a pound at the time.) Post-decimalisation, "shilling" referrs to the 5-pence coin, which is still worth 1/20th of a pound (because there are now 100 pence in a pound).

The name shilling is believed to come from old Scandinavian skilling, meaning a division, or a mark on a stick.

The abbreviation for shilling is "s.", from the Latin solidus, the name of a Roman coin. Sometimes it was written informally with a slash i.e. "1/6", 1 shilling, 6 pence or when there no pence, with a slash then a hyphen i.e. "11/-".

A slang name for a shilling was a bob (which was invariant in the plural, as in "ten bob note"; "that cost me two bob").

To take the King's shilling was to enlist in the army or navy.


The last shillings issued for circulation were dated 1966, although proofs were issued as part of a collectors' set dated 1970. From 1968 new decimal coins, "five new pence" with the same weight and specifications, started to replace shillings. They were finally withdrawn in 1990, when a new, smaller, five pence coin was produced.

Irish shillings

See also: Irish shilling coin

Irish shilling 1954
Irish shilling 1954

In Ireland, the shilling was issued as "scilling" in Irish language. They had kept the original 12-pence value on their shilling. It was issued until 1969, and after 1971, like Britain, the general public often used a shilling to pay 5-pences to shops, etc. When the Central Bank of Ireland issued a smaller five-pence piece, the shilling was finally demonetised in 1992.

Australian Shillings

The Australian Shilling was first issued in 1910 with the Australian Coat of Arms on the reverse, and King Edward VII on the face. The Coat of Arms design was retained through the reign of King George V until a new ram's head design was introduced for the coins of George VI. This design continued until the last year of issue in 1963. In 1966 Australia's currency was decimalised and the Shilling was replaced by a 10 cent coin, where 10 Shillings made up one Australian Dollar.

The slang term for a Shilling coin in Australia was "deener". The slang term for a shilling as currency unit was "bob", the same as in the United Kingdom.

Other countries' shillings

Missing image
Due to the reach of the British Empire, the shilling was once used on every inhabited continent. This 2-shilling piece was minted for British West Africa.

Shillings were also issued in New Zealand before decimalisation in the 1960s, in Austria (schillings) until the advent of the euro, in the Scandinavian countries (skilding) until the Scandinavian Monetary Union of 1873, and in the City of Hamburg. Shillings remain the basic currency unit of the following East African states, where the East Africa Shilling was in use during colonial times: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia and Somaliland.

The Sol (later the sou), both also derived from the Roman Solidus, were the equivalent coins in France, while the (Nuevo) Sol (PEN) remains the currency of Peru (although in that case, it may simply be the Spanish word for sun; it replaced the inti, which means "sun" in Quechua).

See also

Other meanings

Shilling is also a fraudulent way of bidding in an auction. See the shill article for more fr:Shilling sv:Shilling


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