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The origin of the English word MONEY

by Dr. Valery Osipov – Etymologist
Etymology is the study of the history of words and how their form and meaning have changed over time.

I wonder if anyone knows the true sense of the word MONEY? This word is too old for any direct information to be known. It is much older than the modern understanding. The ulterior etymology of this word is disputed. Its etymology is rather difficult.

words_money The focus idea of this root is “changing”. Clearly, we can note the same idea in English CHANGE with the financial meanings of 1.” the balance of money returned when something is paid for”; 2.“money of smaller denomination given or received in exchange for money of higher denomination”; 3.“to give or receive the equivalent of money in lower denominations or in foreign currency”; 4.“coins” . Thus, we can write: money=changing=coins.

What is money? Money is a thing used in place of another one or others. Usually, in place of goods or services. We use money for the replacing of one thing for another, substitution. This act is called in Old Slavonic MENA- “change, exchange”. The means of this act is money or MENY (????) (in Old Slavonic). Note, please, here the resemblance in sounds: MONEY/MENY.

The Czech word for “coin” is MINCE which is related to German MUNZE – “coin”. Both are derived from Old Slavic MENTSE (?????) meaning literally “a small thing for change”. Note once more: coin is a means for change or exchange.

The Old Slavonic word MENY is plural form from MENA – “one thing for exchange”. The same sense has the Latin MINA and Greek MNA. Both mean ”an ancient unit of weight and value equal to 1?60 talent”. See also the modern Arabic MANN and Hebrew MANEH. Both for “name of a unit of weight”.

We find in Modern Arabic the word MINA – “port”. What does it have to do with English word “money”? As a matter of fact, it is of the same root bearing the idea of exchanging. Historically, port was a place for the commercial exchange of goods. It was an important center of trade (buying and selling).

Similarly, the word “money” has its cognate in Japanese. The Japanese word MINATO – “port” is of the same root.

Selene (or Latin Luna), the eye of night, the sister of the god of the sun, the goddess of the moon, was also called Mene (Mênê). Why? And what does this name mean, Mene? It means literally “she who changes her appearance daily”. Note also, it is the female divinity who was presiding over the months.

Words MONEY, MOON and MONTH are closely associated. All these are cognates. It is quite clear that the English MOON – “moon”, the English MONTH – “month”, the Greek MENE – “moon”, the Greek MEN – “month”, the Lithuanian MENESIS – “moon, month”, the Russian MESYATS (?????) – “month, moon”, the Gothic MENA – “moon”, etc., all are of the same Proto-Indo-European origin. No chance resemblance can be systematic nor regular. The deeper etymology of this root is “changes in ones appearance” the fact that allows to use these changes for measuring. We use the moon’s phases as the measure of time (months). Similarly, we use money (coins, change) as the measure of cost.

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RSS Feed for This Post3 Comment(s)

  1. Dave | Nov 22, 2009 | Reply

    I suppose the traditional and obvious derivation from the Latin MONETA (“money”) is just too simple…

  2. td | Nov 30, 2010 | Reply

    Yes, and I suppose the Latin term simply appeared from nowhere?

  3. Dan | Jul 7, 2012 | Reply

    How about the Hebrew root mem-nun-heh which means to count?

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