Something I realised, after having to help many international tourists count out their change, is that American coins don’t actually have the number value on them??? Like no wonder all these poor tourists are so confused
Or if you knew a little linguistics or history…the ‘dime’ was actually originally called the disme, which is a word derived from Old French meaning ‘tenth.’
If you think further back, the word for ten in Latin is Decem (also where we get the term decimal and the base-ten decimal system), which is quite similar to the word ‘disme.’
Nickels were originally called half-dismes (or half-dimes). The term nickel came about for two reasons: the half-dime was still in circulation when these new coins were produced, so there needed to be some distinction; what better way to draw the distinction than to name it after the metal it was produced from.
Quarters and cents are very easy to understand. Quarters are quarter-dollars, and the word cent is a derivation from the Latin word centesimus, which means ‘hundredth.’ The prefix cent is used for many things — centimeter, century*, centigrade. Also, words such as percent (literally in latin per = to each/in each, cent = 100), etc.
[*Fun fact about the word century — this word just means one hundred of anything. Usually, it was followed by what it was describing. So speaking about the modern meaning of century, it would have originally been written as ‘a century of years.’]
Our coinage at one point was quite a bit more confusing: Half-cents, cents, two-cents, three-cents, half-dimes/nickels, dimes, quarters, half-dollars, dollar coins, quarter-eagle $2.50 coins, half-eagle $5 coins, eagle $10 coins, and double-eagle $20 coins.