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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 stamped in quarters on the coin;[1] or perhaps from Middle English sterre (star) + -ling (as in shilling), as some Norman coins presumably featured stars on them.

For the UK currency gloss, the term is a contraction of esterling, referring to eastern merchants from Baltic towns who established a bullion weight standard for transactions. (Taylor and Palmer, 1968)



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.
    • 1793, Stephen Martin Leake, An Historical Account of English Money from the Conquest to the Present Time
      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 (comparative more sterling, superlative most sterling)

  1. (not comparable) of, or relating to British currency, or the former British coinage.
  2. (not comparable) of, relating to, or made from sterling silver.
  3. Of acknowledged worth or influence; high quality; authoritative.
    • 1896, A. E. Housman, “Terence, this is stupid stuff”, in A Shropshire Lad:
      Then the world seemed none so bad / And I myself a sterling lad
    • 2014 December 13, Mandeep Sanghera, “Burnley 1-0 Southampton”, in BBC Sport[3]:
      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.
    • 1861, Anthony Trollope, Framley Parsonage
      I have said that Mr. Crawley was a stern, unpleasant man; and it certainly was so. The man must be made of very sterling stuff, whom continued and undeserved misfortune does not make unpleasant.
    • 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.”
    • 2021 October 6, Greg Morse, “A need for speed and the drive for 125”, in RAIL, number 941, page 53:
      HSTs continued to provide sterling service during these years, so much so that when Virgin and Midland Mainline brought their new wave of high-speed diesel electric multiple units [...] on stream, many preferred the ride and comfort of the vanquished to the ride and comfort of the vanquisher.



  1. ^ [1] Wikimedia: Cut Halfpenny of Edward the Confessor




Borrowed from English sterling, from Middle English sterling, sterlinge, sterlynge, starling.



sterling m anim

  1. Alternative form of szterling
    Synonyms: funt, funt sterling, funt szterling, szterling


Derived terms[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • sterling in Wielki słownik języka polskiego, Instytut Języka Polskiego PAN
  • sterling in Polish dictionaries at PWN