One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
In ancient Rome: a silver coin of the value of half a denarius; (also occasionally) a half-piece of gold.
Early 17th century; earliest use found in Philemon Holland (1552–1637), translator. From classical Latin quīnārius Roman silver coin worth five asses, equivalent to half a denarius (which is also a silver coin) (Pliny), use as noun (short for quīnārius nummus quinary coin) of masculine of quīnārius.
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