Groschen

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Groschen (About this sound pronunciation ; from Latin: grossus "thick", via Old Czech groš) was the (sometimes colloquial) name for a silver coin used in various states of the Holy Roman Empire.

Names and etymology[edit]

The name is introduced in 13th-century France as [denarius] grossus, lit. "thick penny", whence Old French gros, Italian grosso, Middle High German gros(se), Low German and Dutch grōte and English groat. In the 14th century, it appeared as Old Czech groš,[1] whence Modern German Groschen.

Names in other modern European languages include:

The qirsh, gersh, grush, γρόσι (grósi) and kuruş are the Arabic, Amharic, Hebrew, Greek and Turkish, names respectively, for currency denominations in and around the territories formerly part of the Ottoman Empire derived from the same Italian origin.

In Slavic languages the term is also cognate with peas and as the coins were similar in size and weight the term gained popularity and still remains in use in Poland and Ukraine. It's popularity in Austria and Germany may be due to the native Slavic population of those territories being germanised since the 7th century.

History[edit]

Tiroler Groschen of 1286

Names like Groschen, grossus/grossi, grosso, grossone, grosz, gros, groš, groat, Groten, garas etc. were used in the Middle Ages for all thick silver coins, as opposed to thin silver coins such as deniers or pennies. Historically it was equal to between several and a dozen denarii.

The type was introduced in 1271 by Duke Meinhard II of Tyrol in Merano. The 1286 example depicted here weighs 1.45 grams (22.4 grains), it is marked with ME IN AR DVS and a Double Cross (obverse), and with DUX TIROL and the Eagle of Tyrol (reverse)

It was minted since the Middle Ages in the following areas:

Later the tradition of Groschen was dropped in most states while others continued to mint only coins smaller than the original coin. In Poland for example, since 1526 these included coins of 12 grosz, 1 grosz, 1 12 grosz, 2 grosz, 3 grosz, 4 grosz and 6 grosz. Their weight gradually dropped to 1.8 grams (28 grains) of silver and since 1752 they were replaced by copper coins of the same name.

In Germany, the name Groschen (both singular and plural) replaced Schilling as the common name for a 12 pfennig coin. In the 18th century it was used predominantly in the northern states as a coin worth 124 of a Reichsthaler (equal to 132 of a Conventionsthaler). In the 19th century, beginning in 1821 in Prussia, a new currency system was introduced in which the Groschen — often called the Silbergroschen (Prussia, from 1821) or Neugroschen (Saxony, from 1840) to distinguish it from older Groschen — was worth 130 of a Thaler or Taler. Following German unification and decimalisation, the Groschen was replaced by the 10 pfennig coin and Groschen remained a nickname for the 10 pfennig coin until the introduction of the euro. For the same reason, the name Sechser (sixer) remained in use regionally for the half-Groschen coin, 5 Pfennigs.

There is a Beethoven rondo for piano, opus 129 (1795) entitled "Die Wut über den verlorenen Groschen" (literally "The rage over the lost groschen", but known as "Rage over a Lost Penny").

Modern currencies[edit]

In recent times, the name was used by two currencies in circulation:

  • In Poland a grosz (plural: grosze or groszy, depending on the number) is a 1100 part of a złoty
  • In Austria a Groschen (plural: Groschen) was a 1100 part of a schilling (1924–38 and 1945–2001)

Likewise, in Germany Groschen remained a slang term for the 10 pfennig coin, thus a 110 part both of the (West German) Deutsche Mark and the East German Mark. The word has lost popularity with the introduction of the Euro, although it can still be heard on occasion, especially from older people.

In Ukraine, grosh is still a slang term for the kopiyka, a 1100 part of a hryvnia. The Ukrainian and Belarusian word for money, hroshi, ultimately derives from this term also.

In Bulgaria, the grosh (Cyrillic: грош) was used as a currency until the lev was introduced in the 19th century.


In Palestine during the British Mandate, a grush was a coin with a hole in it, valued at 1100 part of a pound (ten mils). It was named after an Ottoman coin. When the pound was replaced by the lira after Israeli statehood in 1948, the name was transferred to a coin (no longer with a hole) worth 1100 of a lira (ten perutot, later one agora). The name persisted for a while after the lira was replaced by the shekel in 1980 (one new agora, worth ten old agorot), but it gradually lost its standing as the name of a certain coin. Now it is a slang for a very small value.[4]

Austrian 2 Groschen coin, 1925
Austrian 10 Groschen coin, 1994

Austria introduced the Groschen in 1924 as the subdivision of the schilling. It was restored, along with the schilling, in 1945 and continued in use until the introduction of the euro in 2002.


See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Groschen in the Grimm online dictionary
  2. ^ Tony Clayton (20 September 1997). "Four Pence". Coins of England and Great Britain. Archived from the original on 7 October 1997. 
  3. ^ http://numisbel.be/1866_11.pdf
  4. ^ Philologos (pseudonym), "Money Hole", The Forward, November 28, 2003.