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Bit

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Money. The word is used in the West Indies for a half pistareen (fivepence). In Jamaica, a bit is worth sixpence, English; in America, 12 1/2 cents; in Ireland, tenpence.

The word is still thievesʹ slang for money generally, and coiners are called bit-makers.

⁂ In English we use the word for a coin which is a fraction of a unit. Thus, a shilling being a unit, we have a six-penny bit and threepenny bit (or not in bits but in divers pieces). So, taking a sovereign for a unit, we had seven-shilling bits, etc.

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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