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Reverse of a Hamburg 4 Schilling Courant (Current) coin from 1728

Schilling (English: shilling, Scandinavian: skilling ) is the name of currency units in various countries.

There are official currencies called shillings in Kenya ( Kenya shilling ), Somalia ( Somalia shilling ), Tanzania ( Tanzanian shilling ) and Uganda ( Uganda shilling ). In earlier times the schilling was also used as a currency or coin in several German countries (e.g. Hamburg, Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg, Brandenburg, Württemberg, Bavaria), in Austria ( Austrian schilling ), Switzerland , Great Britain , Poland , Denmark , Norway and Sweden . The currency symbol for the shilling in German-speaking countries corresponds to a " ß ", in English-speaking countries the abbreviations s, /, ſ or sh are used.

Word origin

The origin of the word Schilling (Old High German skilling, Old English scilling, Old Icelandic skillingr, Gothic skilliggs ) is not clear. Already in Gothic it referred to the Roman gold coin ( solidus ), which was also worn as jewelry by the Teutons. Possibly it connects to the Indo-European root * (s) kel- “cut”, so that Schilling should be understood as “the piece cut off from a gold or silver metal rod ” . A derivation from a Germanic * skildulingaz, which would mean “shield-like thing” or “shieldling”, is also conceivable (cf. Escudo ). As a further, objectively obvious, but acoustically adventurous possibility, a modification of the Latin siliqua "certain small coin weight" was considered.


The shilling was originally the minted antique gold solidus, the late antique successor to the aureus . The coin reform under Charlemagne in 794 established a new silver currency. It was:

Carolingian silver pound (approximately 406½  grams ) = 20  shillings (solidi) = 240  pfennigs (denarii) .

The solidus / shilling in silver, however, was not used in the Carolingian era. Only a few silver pennies were struck. In the Franconian Empire, from around 800 onwards, there was only a pure silver currency whose coin weight was based on the pound. Gold solidi (gold shillings) were a rare exception. This made the solidus a pure coin of account and a unit of weight and the gold equivalent for 12 silver pennies.

The new silver schilling coin issues that began later in northern Italy from around 1150 weighed several times the “normal” denarius (denar piccolo), which has since been inflationarily reduced in silver . They were no longer the old - only now in silver form - revived original gold shilling. From then on there were silver (multiple, heavy) denarii (denarii grossi) - again referred to as shillings, but in fact they corresponded to the early antique half denarius. They were usually 4 to 12 (even up to 20) simple, reduced denarii or pennies. The name Groschen arose from the Italian “grossino” (denarius grossus) . In some German cities and regions where the schilling (or groschen) was not minted as a multiple of pfennigs in the 14th century, it was already in use as a counting measure with a value of rarely 6 heavy or mostly 12 light pfennigs.

The gold coinage, which was also first started again in Italy from around 1250 in Florence, Genoa, Venice and other northern Italian city-states, which were later referred to as florin , ducat or zechine, was a reaction to the increased economic potential of the after the fall of the Western Roman Empire beginning early Renaissance and thus actually represent the old late Roman gold solidus (approx. 4.5 g) with a new name, but with a reduced weight (approx. 3.5 g). Ultimately, it actually only has a " nominal coin name correction" as a reaction to previous inflationary Processes given. The German gold gulden of the Middle Ages from around 1300 were in turn an imitation of the popular northern Italian florine.

In northern Germany, the schilling was widely regarded as the sixteenth part of a Luebian mark from the High Middle Ages and was in turn divided into 12 pfennigs . The German silver shillings of modern times were comparable to the groschen and still held mostly 12 pfennigs.

The abbreviation of the Schilling is a ß or a ßl in many medieval and modern documents .

See also: Sachsenpfennig # Münzfuß

Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Hamburg and Lübeck

Since the Middle Ages, Hamburg and Lübeck have counted 16 Schillings at 12 Pfennig each according to the Lübeck mark . In 1725, Hamburg decided to switch to the 34-mark coin base and thus to the Hamburg Courant currency. In this, the Schilling remained the main type of coin as Schilling Hamburger Current / Courant. All full-value silver coins actually issued were denominated in shillings; the mark, on which 16 schillings continued to go, was a pure unit of account ("counting mark"). The minted were 1-shilling pieces ( cutting coin ) as well as 2, 4, 8-, 16- and 32-shilling pieces ( curant coins ). Schillings were struck in Hamburg until 1862.

1 Schilling Courant Mecklenb Schwerin 1764 (size comparison)
2½ Schillings Schleswig-Holstein Courant (1787)


In Mecklenburg the Schilling initially corresponded to the Lübeck and Hamburg schilling. From around 1325, however, 1½, later 2 shillings in Wendish (that is, Mecklenburgian) corresponded to  1 shilling in Luebisch; 2½ Schilling Wendish corresponded to 1 Schilling in Brandenburg. In the 16th and 17th centuries, 24 shillings were equal to 1  guilder , and since the 17th century 48 shillings equaled 1  thaler . This last-mentioned division of 1 thaler = 48 schillings to 12 pfennigs was valid in the two Mecklenburg countries until the introduction of the imperial currency in 1871, whereby the thaler was then calculated at 3 new marks.


In Württemberg , shillings were struck into the 17th century. Early values ​​were 6½ schillings on 1 lot from Nuremberg (1396), 7 on 1 lot from Ulm (1404) and 10 on 1 lot of fine silver (1482, 1493, 1509).

Bavaria and Austria

In Bavaria and Austria , in the late Middle Ages a distinction was made between the short shilling at 12 pfennigs and the long shilling at 30 pfennigs. In the 19th century the term schilling was still used in the dialects of Salzburg and Upper Austria as the equivalent of 30 pfennigs or 7½ kreuzers.

For the modern Austrian schilling see below .


Independent schilling minting in what is now Switzerland began in the second half of the 14th century in western Switzerland (from 1375 the demi-majority of the bishops of Lausanne ). From the early 15th century, the Schilling coinage also established itself on a larger scale in German-speaking Switzerland, for example in Zurich , Bern and Basel . The Schilling evolved into the Plappart around 1420 , and with the advent of the Batzen at the end of the century , the Schilling increasingly declined to a low value coin. As a small denomination, however, it played an important role until the early 19th century, for example in central Switzerland , in Zurich and in Geneva . The last shillings were minted in Switzerland in 1813 in Glarus and in 1833 in Geneva. In French-speaking western Switzerland , the term sou remained for the 5- centime piece or 4 sous for 20 centimes and 100 sous for 5 francs until the 20th century.

Great Britain

1 shilling 1948 King George VI. - Front as well as English and Scottish back

The formerly common British shilling (abbreviated “s” from solidus ) had a value of 12 pence (abbreviated “d” from denarius ) or 1/20 pound sterling (£). It was standardized in 1816, the year the gold standard was introduced (with the sovereign coin ), with a weight of 5.7 g sterling silver and a diameter of 24 millimeters. In 1920 the silver content was reduced to 50 percent and in 1947 it was completely converted to copper-nickel . The slang term for a shilling was "bob". In correspondence, shillings were abbreviated with a slash or an apostrophe (1 shilling: 1s or 1 / - or 1'-). Larger coins were the florin (2s), the half crown (2s 6d) and the crown (5s).

In 1971 the shilling was abolished with the conversion of the British pound to the decimal system , but the coins were only withdrawn gradually and remained in circulation as 5 (new) pence coins for the time being; That is why the five-pence coin is still sometimes referred to as the shilling .

In many former British colonies such as Australia, New Zealand or Nigeria, the pound was the currency and thus also the shilling, see pound (currency) . To this day it is called Shilling in four once (wholly or partially) British possessions in East Africa - Kenya , Somalia , Tanzania and Uganda .

Austria (20th century)

From 1925 to 1938 and 1945 to 1998 the schilling was book and cash; from 1999 until the introduction of the euro in 2002, the schilling was only available as cash. From 1938 to 1945 the Reichsmark was the Austrian currency. The last schilling coins and notes in circulation can be exchanged for an unlimited period at the National Bank , but older, withdrawn series cannot.


The Polish shillings under King Sigismund I of Poland (1506–1548) had a rough weight of 1.24 g with a fineness of only 0.23 g (185/1000) silver. Under John II Casimir of Poland (1648–1668) the shilling was already made of copper. King August III. (1733–1763) had copper shillings worth 3 shillings per groschen minted in the Grünthal mint in 1755 to finance his national budget. The shilling remained a copper coin until the beginning of the 19th century.


The schilling (skilling) came to Scandinavia from northern Germany.


The first Schillings (Skilling) in Denmark let King Christoph III. , a born Prince of Pfalz-Neumarkt and Danish King from 1440 to 1448, beat. The Danish shillings, of which 16 went to a mark and 96 to a thaler , were based on the Hamburg and Luebian shillings. With a fluctuating silver content, they remained an important Danish denomination until they were replaced by the Danish crown at 100 Øre in 1875 .

Schleswig and Holstein

In 1788 the schilling Schleswig-Holsteinisch Courant was introduced in the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein , which were then part of the entire Danish state . The reference denomination was the Speciestaler in the 9¼ thaler coin footer. 60 shillings of Courant resulted in a speciestaler. Until 1812 at the latest , three- linges , sextuplets and two-sextupling coins were minted as cutting coins and 2½ to 60 schilling coins as fully-fledged Kurant coins .

The name of the coin is one of the few names in which the two separate duchies were connected with a hyphen, even before the term was politicized by Schleswigholsteinism .


In Norway , the Danish-Norwegian King John I introduced the shilling in the early 16th century. They were expressed by the king in Bergen and the Norwegian archbishop in Nidaros ( Trondheim ). At first the schilling was counted at 12 pfennigs. From 1628 the shilling was the smallest unit in the Norwegian coin system: from 1635 to 1813 96 schillings went to 1  Reichstaler and from 1813 to 1816 to 1 Reichsbanktaler, and from 1816 to the introduction of the Norwegian krone in 1875 120 schillings to 1  speciestaler .


In Sweden the shilling was introduced as an invoice coin in 1776; 1 Reichstaler was equivalent to 48 shillings at 12  runstykke . From 1802 to 1855, shillings were also minted.

Other countries

In East Africa there are countries whose currency is also called the shilling :


Web links

Commons : Shilling  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Schilling  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Compilation of the derivation attempts based on: Etymological Dictionary of German, developed under the direction of Wolfgang Pfeifer , Akademie, Berlin 1989 (and later editions); Smart. Etymological Dictionary of the German Language , 25th, updated and expanded edition, edited by Elmar Seebold , de Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2012; also Friedrich Kluge , Alfred Götze : Etymological dictionary of the German language. 20th ed., Ed. by Walther Mitzka , de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1967, each under the heading Schilling .
  2. ^ Mecklenburg dictionary VI 66.
  3. Swabian Dictionary V 837; More see there.
  4. Bavarian Dictionary II² Sp. 397 ff .; see. also Numispedia: Schilling .
  5. Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz 11, 77; For further information see Schweizerisches Idiotikon VIII 574 ff.
  6. Heinz Fengler u. a .: transpress lexicon. Numismatics . Transpress Verlag for Transport, Berlin 1988, p. 433.
  7. The following according to the entries in the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Wikipedia, each under skilling, as well as after: Meyer's new Konversations-Lexikon, 2nd edition 1861–1873, and Brockhaus' Conversations-Lexikon, 11th edition 1864–1873, each below Schilling and Scandinavian Peninsula or Denmark, Norway, Sweden .
  8. See also Georg Galster: The coins of Denmark.