Latin Inscriptions on British Coins

Latin Inscriptions

British coins reflect a nation with a very long history and traditions that take a long time to die. Using Latin inscriptions on coins is not anachronistic but a statement of who we, the British, are and hopefully will always be, reinforced by the effigy of Queen or King on the obverse and emblems of greatness, like Britannia, on the reverse.

History does take its toll; over the years we have dropped a few phrases. Britain no longer has an empire, colonies or is even a major influence in many countries. We rarely say ‘Great’ Britain. These days Britain is more often referred to as the ‘United Kingdom’. But coins give us, at the very least, an artistic licence to maintain a practice dating back more than 500 years.

Some Latin inscriptions phrases are still used on coins which are associated with Britain or the British Commonwealth, such as Canada.

What does the Latin Inscriptions on a modern British coin mean?

Modern coins are smaller in diameter than those of the pre-decimal era, a sign of the times that even non-precious metal is expensive, so the first thing to note is that the Latin inscriptions are actually Latin abbreviations.

On the obverse (‘heads’) the portrait of the Queen is surrounded by the text (called the Inscription or Legend):

ELIZABETH II : D G REG : F D

So we have:

ELIZABETH II

The British Monarch, which is currently Queen Elizabeth the Second. Many monarchs use the Latin spelling of their names but not in all cases.

D G REG

An Abbreviation of DEI GRATIA REGINA, which means ‘By the Grace of God, Queen’. (A king would have D G REX).

F D

An abbreviation of FIDEI DEFENSOR, which means ‘Defender of the Faith’. The British Monarch is also head (Supreme Governor) of the Church of England. In the Church hierarchy, the Monarch is above the Archbishop of Canterbury. This subsidiary title was given to Henry VIII by Pope Leo X and the phrase has been used on coins since 1714 with the exception of a Florin in 1849 which was known as the ‘Godless’ Florin.

Many Commonwealth countries have dropped this phrase due to its association with the Christian Church. Prince Charles (who is the current heir to the Throne) has been reported as saying he would like the term to be ‘Defender of Faiths’ rather than ‘Defender of the Faith’. Another example of how inscriptions evolve in a changing World.

Older Coins

Prior to decimalisation, coins tended to have a much bigger diameter and so although the Latin inscriptions were as above they were not always abbreviated so much. As noted above, a few other phrases were used which have now lost favour. Consider a pre-war Penny of the 1930’s, it would read:

GEORGIVS VI : D G BR OMN REX F D IND IMP

(In passing you may have noticed that successive Monarchs face in opposite directions. This is just a tradition).

GEORGIVS VI

The Monarch then was King George the sixth. Note the spelling of the name is written in Latin. Some are more confusing, for example Carolvs II is Charles the second, Iacobvs II is James the second.

D G

Dei Gratia as before. All Monarchs rule with God’s Grace. Some coins use DEI GR or DEI GRA.

BR

BR or BRITT refers to Britain.

OMN

Omni means ‘All’ or ‘Every’. In context of the coin inscription it’s promoting the Monarch as Ruler of his subjects, ‘King of All Britains’.

REX

Rex means King (as Regina means Queen)

F D

As before, FIDEI DEFENSOR, ‘Defender of the Faith’.

IND IMP

IND is for India and IMP is Emperor, so we have ‘Emperor of India’. India became an independent nation in 1947 and the phrase was discontinued.

There are probably a few other Latin words, but these are the most popular.


View this item on:

UK On eBay UK:
Beatrix Potter Jemima Puddleduck 50p Coin 2016 Fifty Pence
£11.50
End Date: Saturday Jan-12-2019 18:32:02 GMT
Buy It Now for only: £11.50
Buy It Now | Add to watch list
Coins Displays | Coin Collection Display Units | The Great British Coin Hunt WoW
£9.97
End Date: Sunday Dec-16-2018 0:47:07 GMT
Buy It Now for only: £9.97
Buy It Now | Add to watch list
Coins Displays | Coin Collection Display Units | The Great British Coin Hunt WoW
£21.60
End Date: Sunday Dec-16-2018 0:47:07 GMT
Buy It Now for only: £21.60
Buy It Now | Add to watch list
2018 PADDINGTON BEAR AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE 50p COIN FIFTY PENCE FROM SEALED BAGS
£2.25
End Date: Wednesday Jan-9-2019 16:37:49 GMT
Buy It Now for only: £2.25
Buy It Now | Add to watch list
Full set 2018 Beatrix Potter 50p COLOURED Coins Peter Rabbit Mrs Tittlemouse UK
£13.99
End Date: Sunday Dec-30-2018 15:31:11 GMT
Buy It Now for only: £13.99
Buy It Now | Add to watch list
Beatrix Potter 50p Coins CIRCULATED Including Jemima Puddle-Duck
£2.10
End Date: Wednesday Dec-26-2018 19:37:20 GMT
Buy It Now for only: £2.10
Buy It Now | Add to watch list
Beatrix Potter 50p Coins CIRCULATED Including Jemima Puddle-Duck
£2.10
End Date: Wednesday Dec-26-2018 19:37:20 GMT
Buy It Now for only: £2.10
Buy It Now | Add to watch list
2018 BEATRIX POTTER FULL SET OF 4 50P RABBIT,BUNNY,TAILOR - OFFICIAL UK ISSUE
£7.95
End Date: Monday Dec-17-2018 19:18:56 GMT
Buy It Now for only: £7.95
Buy It Now | Add to watch list
2018 Set 7x UK New 50p Coins Full Set Beatrix Potter, Act & Pair Paddington UNC
£14.50
End Date: Friday Dec-14-2018 11:23:44 GMT
Buy It Now for only: £14.50
Buy It Now | Add to watch list
Mrs Tittlemouse, Flopsy Bunny, Tailor of Gloucester, Peter Rabbit, 2018 50p
£11.50
End Date: Friday Jan-11-2019 17:03:55 GMT
Buy It Now for only: £11.50
Buy It Now | Add to watch list
Mrs Tittlemouse, Flopsy Bunny, Tailor of Gloucester, Peter Rabbit, 2018 50p
£2.99
End Date: Friday Jan-11-2019 17:03:55 GMT
Buy It Now for only: £2.99
Buy It Now | Add to watch list
Mrs Tittlemouse, Flopsy Bunny, Tailor of Gloucester, Peter Rabbit, 2018 50p
£1.20
End Date: Friday Jan-11-2019 17:03:55 GMT
Buy It Now for only: £1.20
Buy It Now | Add to watch list
2018 BEATRIX POTTER 50P FULL Set 4 X COIN SET Uncirculated Complete....
£7.49
End Date: Tuesday Jan-8-2019 18:24:17 GMT
Buy It Now for only: £7.49
Buy It Now | Add to watch list
Mrs Tittlemouse - Beatrix Potter 50p Fifty Pence coin 2018 - Uncirculated
£2.79
End Date: Tuesday Jan-8-2019 15:57:22 GMT
Buy It Now for only: £2.79
Buy It Now | Add to watch list
BEATRIX POTTER 50 p coins 2018.Flopsy Bunny.Mrs Tittlemouse.Tailor of Gloucester
£0.99
End Date: Sunday Jan-6-2019 7:09:55 GMT
Buy It Now for only: £0.99
Buy It Now | Add to watch list
BEATRIX POTTER 50 p coins 2018.Flopsy Bunny.Mrs Tittlemouse.Tailor of Gloucester
£13.99
End Date: Sunday Jan-6-2019 7:09:55 GMT
Buy It Now for only: £13.99
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

View this item on:

Share This: