On the etymology of money

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by sotos, Nov 5, 2012.

  1. sotos Senior Member

    This “mon-“ in the word money is almost the same with “moon”. However, the learned etymologists mysteriously fail to go deeper than Juno Moneta to investigate any link between money and moon.

    OED (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=money&searchmode=none ):
    money , … " from Moneta, a title or surname of the Roman goddess Juno, in or near whose temple money was coined; perhaps from monere "advise, warn" (see monitor[/URL] (n.)), with the sense of "admonishing goddess," which is sensible, but the etymology is difficult.

    In OED the relation of moon and measuring (time) is mentioned as probable.
    OED, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=moon&searchmode=none
    moon (n.)[/URL][I[/URL]] O.E. mona[/I], from P.Gmc. *menon- … from PIE *me(n)ses- "moon, month" …. Gk. mene "moon," men "month;" L. mensis "month;" O.C.S. meseci, … O.Ir. mi, Welsh mis, Bret. miz "month"), probably from root *me- "to measure," in reference to the moon's phases as the measure of time.
    But measuring time is inseparable from keeping records of events, and this is the definition of memory (mneme, in Gr.). On the other hand, the relation between feminity and lunar phases is obvious and thus the association of moon with female goddesses like Juna, Gr. Hera, Hekate, etc. References on the lunar nature of Hera and Juno are found in this WP article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juno_(mythology) . I can add that a prosonym of Hera was “silver-throned” http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0057:entry=a)rguro/qronos
    Juno is multiply connected to the moon via the calendae, menstruation, birth etc.
    I suppose the people who worshipped Juno “Moneta” were mostly women anxious about their health and fertility, matters that could make the difference between a respected lady and a throw-away. Economic concerns were mostly men’s business and might have been secondary to an ancient lady.
    We owe the etymology of moneo> Moneta to Cicero but modern scholars (or non-scholars) find the explanation of “warning goddess”>”(monetary system) supervisor goddess” as far-fetched and in OED is cited as “difficult”.
    This is fair as a fool moon.
    It is true that coinage was related to various temples (not only Juno’s) as the temples were also treasuries and safes for the various coinage and weight standards. This is something that the early christian fathers disliked. Ioannes Chrysostomus said that “the church is not a gold-smith’s or argyrokopeion”. (Patrologia Graeca, 58, 508).
    The Greeks called the money “argyrion” (silver) ( http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper...ic+letter=*a:entry+group=297:entry=a)rgu/rion) and the minting/coinage “argyrokopia” (lit. “cutting silver”):

    Coinage was introduced to Rome late (c. 3rd c. AD) from the Greek cities of South Italy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_currency#History) . Silver coins (denarius, sestertius) were the most widely used. Also, the Greek silver coins were already known since classical times to the Italians, and the Athenian silver drachma was still in use, additionally as a weight standard.

    So, coinage was strongly associated with silver in the material world. But the origin of this "mon-" seems to be the Moon. Silver was and is associated with the moon (as is gold with sun) in myth and magic. Moreover, the meaning “coin” is related to “counting”, which also points to the moon, through many biological and subconscious ways. The association of moon (Gr. μην, men) with memory (Gr. mneme) strongly support this. Therefore, the magico-religious association of coinage with moon and moon-deities seems reasonable. The depiction of a crescent on many ancient Greek and Roman coins may be tertiary in the couple “coin-moon”. The most widely accepted silver drachma of Athens had the owl and a small crescent on the one side.

    After the above, do you find reasonble that the etymology of money should include references to silver and moon, at least as equally possible as the “warning”.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2012
  2. aruniyan Senior Member

    Thats interesting, but for me the word "money" looks more close to Tamil word "Mani" meaning beads which were used as currency in ancient times. :)
  3. ancalimon Senior Member

    I always thought the word money was related with the word mana (meaning) which I think is related with one of the oldest religious views in the world which got mature much later than it was first thought.

    And for me religion is the same as economy and hegemony over people.
  4. Kevin Beach

    Kevin Beach Senior Member

    I've been a numismatist since my early adolescence; about the same time as I started studying Latin.

    There is no doubt that the English word "money" comes from the Latin monetas, through the French monnaie. I suggest that any similarity with words in other language groups is coincidental.

    The issue is the etymology of monetas itself.
  5. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I totally agree with Kevin. The etymology of money is Latin monetas = mint, i.e. the place where coins are struck and monetas = mint is derived from the Temple of Iuno Moneta where all Roman coins where struck in Republican and early Imperial times.

    If the fact that Cicero resorted to an apparently folk-etymological explanation of the origin of the epithet Moneta for the goddess Iuno shows anything then that the true etymology of the epithet was unknown already in Republican times and bears no relation to why monetas came to mean mint.

    Hence, whatever Moneta originally meant and however interesting this question may be, it has nothing to do with the etymology of money and is an entirely separate etymological question.
  6. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Why monetas? :confused:
  7. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Oh! I didn't realize, I added -s, probably subconsciously copied from Kevin's post. Let's wait for his answer.
  8. Kevin Beach

    Kevin Beach Senior Member

    I decline to answer that on the ground that my reply may tend to incriminate me.:eek:

    I've had a cold for over a week now. It's made my head all fuzzy. A very nasty cold. OK? :(

    Oh, okay then: Yes, it should be moneta. First declension, feminine.

    By the way, my Cassell's New Latin Dictionary (from the 1950s) gives a couple of alternative meanings for moneo: To inform with authority and to admonish with punishment. Given the original purpose of coinage, which was to provide a means of exchange guaranteed by a recognised authority but with fierce punishments for forgery, I can see a relevant connection.

    However, the same dictionary, a couple of entries later, states that coinage was minted in the Temple of Juno Moneta and hence moneta as the mint, the place where money was coined. But what parole evidence is there for that assertion? Might it just be a backward presumption based on the word itself?
  9. sotos Senior Member

    The thread was almost closed, but I wanted to add that if the etymology from a word meaning "monitor, warn, etc" is correct, then it is interesting that the inversion of the syllables produces the parallel couple L. numus (money, coin) / Gr. nomos (law). Or the inversion happened the other way around?
    Notice also that the symbol of Law is a balance, a common numismatic symbol.
  10. aruniyan Senior Member

    There is a Latin word monīle (necklace), which i think came from the word Mani(beads).
    Beads were extensively used as currencies and counting currencies since ages, may be there is some relation.
  11. Dhira Simha Senior Member

    It is actually a Rig-Vedic word: maṇi मणि ‘a jewel, gem, pearl (also fig.), any ornament or amulet, globule, crystal’ believed to be cognate with Lat. Monile, Germ. mane, Mähne and Eng. mane. Since the conventional etymology "from Moneta, a title or surname of the Roman goddess Juno, in or near whose temple money was coined; perhaps from monere "advise, warn" is very shaky I, for one, do not exclude a link between money and maṇi but Germanic etymologies is not my field.
    The Skr. word could be related to the reconstructed *monī allegedly meaning 'neck'. This is reluctantly supported by the Skr. मन्या manyā the back or the nape of the neck (musculus cucullaris or trapezius). Also compare the Slavonic монисто monisto 'necklace' (particularly one made of coins) which may be interpreted as *mani + st(h)a 'neck + staying'. Also Irish muintorc 'necklace' and muinēl 'neck', Greek μάννον 'necklace' etc.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2012
  12. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    A few comments:

    ad n. 1:
    A fatal flaw of etymonline is that it does not mark long and short vowels. The IE word for “moon” has a long ē; this could conceivably stand in ablaut with long ō, but cannot really be connected with Lat. mŏn(ēta), with short o.

    ad n. 2:
    Tamil maṇi is borrowed from Sanskrit, as Dhira correctly says.

    ad n. 3:
    Turkish mana “meaning” is the Arabic loanword maʻnā.

    ad n. 11:
    The primary meaning of Vedic maṇi- is “necklace” and it belongs to a family of IE terms for “neck”, “back of the neck”, such as Germanic mana, Mähne, mane, Lat. monīle etc., also the Vedic hapax manā- (see Mayrhofer, Et. Wb. d. Altindoarischen II pp.295-6, 308). I agree that a semantic development of necklace > beads > money is conceivable, but how do you explain the –ta of the Latin word?
  13. Hamlet2508 Senior Member

    Somehow moneta turned into Old French monoie "money, coin, currency" . You've still got the (somewhat dated) Latinized expression for money in German "Moneten" .
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2012
  14. aruniyan Senior Member


    How are you so sure that Tamil Mani borrowed from Sanskrit?
    Mani(bead) is a commonly used south Indian word, the root should be maN "retain, reside, stay there" and Mani=retain/reside + not there to give(due to its spherical shape)

    neck, should be later development in IE and other language families.

    Proto-Turkic: *bōnčok
    Altaic etymology: Altaic etymology[​IMG]

    Meaning: beads, small balls as ornaments
    Russian meaning: бусы, маленькие шарики в качестве украшений
    Old Turkic: mončuq (Orkh., OUIgh.)
    Karakhanid: mončuq (MK)
    Turkish: bonǯuk

    One can argue that this form is derived from *bōjn 'neck' (in old sources the word is usually reserved for neck ornaments). Forms like mojɨn-ča-k, attested in Tat., Bashk., Nogh., Kirgh., as well as Chag. mɨnčaɣ, KBalk., Kum. minčaq should be probably explained that way; but the form *bōn-čok itself may rather reflect earlier *mōŋi-č`V(k`V) 'round ornament', with secondary contaminations. Turk. > Russ. munčakъ, see Аникин 395.
  15. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Of course you cannot be really sure about anything. But the fact that Vedic maṇi- has well established parallels all across Indo-European does suggest that it is an IE word, not a loan word.

    I do not understand why being spherical should make something ungiveable. It is true that a verb “man2” with the meaning “wait, remain” has been posited to explain a small number of passages in the Rg Veda, though not everyone accepts this interpretation (see Mayrhofer II, pp. 306-7). If correct, this would be a cognate of Latin manēre etc.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2012
  16. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    We're getting a bit far away from the original question, aren't we?

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