Pound

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The pound is a unit of currency used by several countries most notably the United Kingdom where it is known officially as the pound sterling.

The symbol of the pound is £.

In the UK, the pound is divided into one hundred pence (singular: penny). Before decimalisation in 1971, the pound was divided into twenty shillings, which were themselves divided into twelve pence. The were also half pennies (ha'pennies, pronounced hay-p'nee) and quarter pennies, the latter known as farthings.

Prices expressed in pounds, shillings, and pence were typically written in the form, for example, £2 6s 4d, which was two pounds, six shillings, and fourpence; £5.0.0 which was five pounds and no shillings; 16/9, which was sixteen shillings and ninepence; and 10/-, which was ten shillings and no pence.

The pound is by far the oldest currency in the world still in existence, having been popularised by King Offa of Mercia, ruler of England, around the year 790 AD. The term 'pound' referred to the fact that it was a pound in weight of Sterling silver. Since that time the pound has remained remarkably stable, but over the centuries a certain amount of inflation has occurred, to the effect that a pound in 790 AD would have the buying power of about 38 pounds today. This compares very favourably with other world currencies such as the German Mark which underwent billion-fold inflation in a space of just a few years in the 1920s and had to be scrapped altogether.

Today, the pound remains the third most important currency in the world in terms of international reserves, after the U.S. Dollar and the Euro, and ahead of the Yen.

As at the end of 2006, the Pound Sterling was worth around US$2.

Some countries in the former British Empire and now the Commonwealth of Nations used the pound and a few adopted it as their own currency upon independence, including Australia and New Zealand. However, these two countries converted to the Australian dollar and the New Zealand dollar in the 1960s.

Other countries such as the Lebanon, Egypt and Cyprus also use the pound but this is an English translation of the local word from Arabic, French, Italian or Greek and has no historical connection to the British pound sterling. The Italian lira, a former currency before the introduction of the Euro, also means pound and used a similar system of weight of silver equivalence.

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