From Middle English bulloin, bullioun, from Anglo-Norman bullion, of obscure origin, perhaps from French bouillon, extending the sense to that of ‘melting’. Middle Dutch boelioen (“base metal”) seems to have come from the unrelated French billon.
- A bulk quantity of precious metal, usually gold or silver, assessed by weight and typically cast as ingots.
- 1848, John Stuart Mill, chapter VI, in Principles of Political Economy: With Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy. […], volume II, London: John W[illiam] Parker, […], OCLC 948263597, book III (Exchange), page 25:
- If the mint kept back one per cent, to pay the expense of coinage, it would be against the interest of the holders of bullion to have it coined, until the coin was more valuable than the bullion by at least that fraction.
- (obsolete) Base or uncurrent coin.
- 1608, [Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas], “(please specify the page)”, in Josuah Sylvester, transl., Du Bartas His Deuine Weekes and Workes […], 3rd edition, London: […] Humfrey Lownes [and are to be sold by Arthur Iohnson […]], published 1611, OCLC 1181680849:
- And those which eld's strict doom did disallow, / And damn for bullion, go for current now.
- (obsolete) Showy metallic ornament, as of gold, silver, or copper, on bridles, saddles, etc.
- 1523, John Skelton, A ryght delectable tratyse upon a goodly Garlande or Chapelet of Laurell; republished in John Scattergood, editor, John Skelton: The Complete English Poems, 1983, OCLC 8728872, lines 1154–1165, page 345:
- To beholde how it was garnysshyd and bounde, […]
The claspis and bullyons were worth a thousande pounde; […]
- (obsolete) A heavy twisted fringe, made of fine gold or silver wire and used for epaulets; also, any heavy twisted fringe whose cords are prominent.
- 1834, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Francesca Carrara, volume 1, page 257:
- The hair was plaited with bullion and red riband, and then wound round the head, something after the fashion of a turban, save that it entirely displayed the forehead.
Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for bullion in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913)