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From Middle English sterling, sterlinge, sterlynge, starling, of uncertain origin. Possibly from sterling ‎(starling) (the bird), which at one time was engraved on one quarter of the coin; or perhaps from Middle English sterre ‎(star) + -ling (as in shilling), as some Norman coins presumably featured stars on them.



sterling ‎(countable and uncountable, plural sterlings)

  1. The currency of the United Kingdom; especially the pound.
  2. Former British gold or silver coinage of a standard fineness: for gold 0.91666 and for silver 0.925.
    • S. M. Leake
      Sterling was the known and approved standard in England, in all probability, from the beginning of King Henry the Second's reign.
  3. Sterling silver, or articles made from this material.
  4. A structure of pilings that protects the piers of a bridge; a starling.



sterling ‎(not comparable)

  1. of, or relating to British currency, or the former British coinage.
  2. of, relating to, or made from sterling silver.
  3. Of acknowledged worth or influence; high quality; authoritative.
    • 2014 December 13, Mandeep Sanghera, “Burnley 1-0 Southampton”, in BBC Sport[2]:
      Southampton had been hoping to get back to winning ways to prove to their critics there was substance to their sterling start to the season.
  4. Genuine; true; pure; of great value or excellence.
    • 2016 January 31, "Is Huma Abedin Hillary Clinton’s Secret Weapon or Her Next Big Problem?," Vanity Fair (retrieved 21 January 2016):
      But Rodríguez says, “Neither the law nor the facts support Senator Grassley’s baseless allegations and extrapolated conclusions. It is disappointing that the senator and his staff continue to focus a politically motivated campaign on Ms. Abedin, who has been known her entire professional life for hard work, integrity, and her sterling reputation. It is people like Ms. Abedin whom we should all want in public service.”