The symbol £ used for the pound sterling, the basic monetary unit of the United Kingdom, stands for the Latin word libra, the name of a Roman unit of weight. The word libra also gave rise to the abbreviation lb for a pound as a measure of weight. The currency sign is a capital letter L, written in old-fashioned roundhand, with one or two crossbars to show that it is being used as a symbol or abbreviation. The term pound sterling is derived from the fact that, about the year 775, silver coins known as "sterlings" were issued in the Saxon kingdoms, 240 of them being minted from a pound of silver, the weight of which was probably equal to the later troy pound. Hence large payments came to be reckoned in "pounds of sterlings," a phrase later shortened to "pounds sterling." After the Norman Conquest the pound was divided for accounting purposes into 20 shillings and into 240 pennies, or pence. On February 15, 1971, the pound sterling was officially decimalized into 100 new pence.
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