Word Origin & History
O.E. pening, penig "penny," from P.Gmc. *panninggaz (cf. O.N. penningr, Swed. pänning, O.Fris. panning, M.Du. pennic, O.H.G. pfenning, Ger. Pfennig, not recorded in Goth., where skatts is used instead), of unknown origin. The English coin was originally set at one-twelfth of a shilling and was of
silver, later copper, then bronze. There are two plural forms: pennies of individual coins, pence collectively. In translations it rendered various foreign coins of small denomination, esp. L. denarius, whence comes its abbreviation d. As Amer.Eng. colloquial for cent, it is recorded from 1889. Penniless "destitute" is attested from c.1310. Pennyweight is O.E. penega gewiht, originally the weight of a silver penny. Penny-a-liner "writer for a journal or newspaper" is attested from 1834. Penny dreadful "cheap and gory fiction" dates from c.1870. Phrase penny-wise and pound-foolish is recorded from 1607.