Definition of sterling in English:



  • 1British money.

    ‘prices in sterling are shown’
    [as modifier] ‘issues of sterling bonds’
    • ‘Although the strength of sterling is often cited as a deterrent to investment, inward investment into Britain is still very high.’
    • ‘The global slowdown and sterling's continued strength against the euro have reduced sales volumes and profitability.’
    • ‘Both have been selling sterling, taking advantage of its recent fall.’
    • ‘In the historiography of post-war Britain, the management of sterling as an international currency is often seen as an example of this dilemma.’
    • ‘Perhaps the major threat to sterling comes from the long-standing association between the British and US economies.’
    • ‘They are cashing in on demand from the North where the value of sterling keeps prices high.’
    • ‘Visitors from the Republic pay the standard brochure rate in Irish pounds even though the price is quoted in sterling.’
    • ‘The officers seized 230 kilos in pure cocaine and £1 million sterling in assorted currency from the boat.’
    • ‘He blames the continued strength of sterling against other currencies, particularly the euro.’
    • ‘Depreciation of sterling against the US dollar has also been a contributing factor to the decline in gross margins.’
    • ‘The strength of sterling against other currencies can turn an enjoyable holiday into an expensive trip.’
    • ‘They froze his accounts worth 4 million sterling pounds.’
    • ‘Manufacturing exports have not done too badly, despite sterling's strength.’
    • ‘Britain has been skittish in the extreme about abandoning pound sterling for the euro.’
    • ‘Some of the Irish money was converted into sterling and is believed to have been smuggled back into the country, the sources said.’
    • ‘But why are all prices charged in sterling on an Irish airline, even on flights between two eurozone countries?’
    • ‘This hasn't been a good year to be earning money in dollars and reporting profits in sterling.’
    • ‘Consequently sterling is a currency of significant influence.’
    • ‘Economists say the current exchange rate of around 1.4 euros to the pound is about the right price at which sterling should convert to the euro.’
    • ‘The Irish band made a staggering £60 million sterling in 2001 with their world tour.’
    1. 1.1
      [as modifier] ‘a sterling spoon’
      short for sterling silver


  • (of a person or their work, efforts, or qualities) excellent or valuable.

    ‘this organization does sterling work for youngsters’
    • ‘We strolled along the Golden Mile and made a sterling effort of prohibiting sleep.’
    • ‘Yes, your sterling reputation is something I'm well aware of, Commander.’
    • ‘How else would they recognise the sterling qualities that mark her as a unique writer?’
    • ‘He also produced a sterling performance.’
    • ‘Ingrid has been doing some sterling work on the problems in the Sudan.’
    • ‘As well as the television dramas there has been some sterling film work.’
    • ‘They are committed to the cause and do a sterling job for the community.’
    • ‘He praised the sterling work of the Friends of St. Patrick's for their enormous contributions to the betterment of the life of patients and staff at the hospital.’
    • ‘Great young achievers from throughout the county have been honoured for their sterling community work.’
    • ‘The junior committee do a sterling job in organising and coaching the junior members.’
    • ‘Sincere, gentle and kind, she possessed all the sterling qualities of a true wife and mother.’
    • ‘The ladies' committee, moreover, received praise for its sterling work in distributing leaflets and obtaining signatures on petitions.’
    • ‘I'm sure his contorted expression of awe and sadness was a sterling effort.’
    • ‘He's got a wonderful nanny, she's doing a sterling job.’
    • ‘Yet there is one common thread and that is the frequent letters of thanks from patients and their grateful relatives for the sterling work of our local hospitals and health services.’
    • ‘He won many hearts for his sterling performances.’
    • ‘Finally, the President's sterling reputation became tarnished.’
    • ‘Pupils at a Bury high school have been rewarded for their sterling environmental efforts.’
    • ‘George was a most remarkable man of sterling qualities, a wonderful example to his family.’
    • ‘A most wonderful lady of sterling qualities, she was deeply religious.’
    excellent, first-rate, first-class, exceptional, outstanding, splendid, superlative, of the first order, of the highest order, of the first water, magnificent, wonderful, fine, great, praiseworthy, laudable, admirable
    a1, stellar, top-notch
    View synonyms


Middle English: probably from steorra star + -ling (because some early Norman pennies bore a small star). Until recently one popular theory was that the coin was originally made by Easterling moneyers (from the “eastern” Hansa towns), but the stressed first syllable would not have been dropped.