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Cross and Pile


Money; pitch and toss. Hilaire le Gai tells us that some of the ancient French coins had a cross, and others a column, on the reverse; the column was called a pile, from which comes our word “pillar,” and the phrase “pile-driving.” Scaliger says that some of the old French coins had a ship on the reverse, the arms of Paris, and that pile means “a ship,” whence our wordpilot.”

“A man may now justifiably throw up cross and pile for his opinions.”—Locke: Human Understanding.

Cross or pile. Heads or tails. The French say pile ou face. The “face” or cross was the obverse of the coin, the “pile” was the reverse; but at a later period the cross was transferred to the reverse, as in our florins, and the obverse bore a “head” or “poll.”


“Marriage is worse than cross I win, pile you lose.”

Shadwell: Epsom Wells.

Cross nor pile. I have neither cross nor pile. Not a penny in the world. The French phrase is, “Nʹavoir ni croix ni pile” (to have neither one sort of coin nor another).

“Whacum had neither cross nor pile.”

Butler: Hudibras, part ii. 3.

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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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Cross (a mystic emblem)
Cross (To)
Cross Buns
Cross-legged Knights
Cross Man (A)
Cross and Ball
Cross and Pile
Cross as a Bear
Cross as the Tongs
Cross as Two Sticks
Crossing the Hand
Crossing the Line
Crotona’s Sage