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What is a Quid?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A quid is a pound sterling, in British slang. Some residents of British dependencies also use this term, and in Ireland, people may refer to a euro as a quid as well, just to add to the confusion. Britain has been extremely resistant to the adoption of the euro, despite pressure from other members of the European Union, and the British pound is likely to remain a viable unit of currency for some time.

The origins of the term "quid" are a bit difficult to nail down. The term has been used since the late 1600s to describe the pound, and it may be derived from the Latin quid pro quo, or "something for something," implying some sort of exchange. It may also be a reference to the former site of a Royal Mint papermill in Quidhampton, Wiltshire. Whatever the origins of the word, it is in wide use in England as a familiar slang term for a pound, and prices are sometimes denoted in quid, especially in casual advertisements.

Formally, the British pound is known as the pound sterling, or simply "pound." The use of the pound dates back to Anglo-Saxon times in England, although it has undergone a number of changes since then. Pounds are denoted with the symbol £, which is always placed before the number without a space, as in £40,000. In 1971, Britain abandoned the complex fractional system of shillings and pence for a decimal system, denoting one pound as 100 pence, much to the delight of frustrated British math students.

The long history of the British pound has been a big part of the reason why the British are reluctant to abandon the quid for the euro. Several nations in the European Union have struggled with currency conversion, because conversion to a universal currency, while having obvious advantages, can also feel like a loss of an important part of history. The British government has said that it will not convert to the euro unless it can determine that the conversion is in the "national interest," in the words of Tony Blair, a former Prime Minister.

The plural of quid is also "quid," and the word is usually used after the quoted denomination, as in "nine quid," rather than "quid nine." This piece of British slang often crops up in fiction and film set in Britain, especially when the characters come from the lower classes, and usage of the term varies in different parts of Britain and her dependences. As a general rule, guests stick to "pound," rather than "quid," unless they want to sound affected.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a CulturalWorld.org researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon169485 — On Apr 21, 2011

The term "quid" began to be used around 1694, coincidentally the same time that the Royal Mint started issuing paper banknotes from their outlet at Quidhampton in Wiltshire.

By anon111094 — On Sep 14, 2010

The term 'quid' is also quite commonly used to describe a portion of chewing tobacco. In this context, quid is probably a corruption of 'cud' as in 'chewing the cud' --


By Mbro88 — On Sep 13, 2010

“Quid pro quo” likely a Roman Latin leftover in the language of the British, meaning, "I will exchange this for that." A quite simple dealing phrase, really!

By anon110700 — On Sep 13, 2010

@StormyKnight: What does quid retribuam mean?

My Latin is a bit rusty after 50 plus years, so this is more guess than anything: "What do I owe" or more likey "what do I repay?"

I had to go through Mad Magazine: "Quid, me vexare?"/"What,me worry?" to jog my memory (you may want a better source).

By wesley91 — On Aug 29, 2010

@stormyknight: If I’m not mistaken, it basically means “something repaid”. I think that is where the word retribution comes from.

By StormyKnight — On Aug 29, 2010

Does anyone know what quid retribuam mean?

By calabama71 — On Aug 29, 2010

“Quid pro quo” can also have other meanings. It can be used to refer to something given or used in place of something else. That was originally used referring to medicine.

It is also sometimes used to define a blunder or misunderstanding made by substituting one thing for another.

Regarding legislature, “quid pro quo” may take the form of vote trading, which is where the “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” comes to play.

And then there is the “quid pro quo” Internet server package for Classic MacOS.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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