One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A small coin of low value used in a number of Italian states from the 14th cent. until (in the Papal States) the 19th cent. (originally a billon coin worth four denari, but by the 16th cent. usually a copper piece and often the least valuable coin in production). Hence also: (the type of) any coin of low value.
Early 17th century; earliest use found in Robert Dallington (b. 1561), author and courtier. From Italian quattrino quatrin.
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