English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Proper nouns are not playable in Scrabble, but I know (from studying words) that "bernie" and "bernies" is playable in Scrabble. But I cannot find a definition for the lowercase version anywhere online.


share|improve this question
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Apparently, in 1999, someone named Bernie Ecclestone tried to donate one million British pounds to the Labour Party, and since then, a "bernie" is a million pounds.

share|improve this answer
He's the owner of Formula 1. He donated 1M quid to the UK labour party who in a totally unrelated move then agreed to exclude F1 from the ban on cigarette advertising. – mgb May 8 '11 at 5:33
"An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought." -- Simon Cameron – Malvolio May 8 '11 at 18:05
even better in this case. The government had to return the money, but because there was no connection between the donation and the exemption, F1 kept it's cigarette advertising. – mgb May 8 '11 at 19:50
@MartinBeckett -- even better. I feel like sending Bernie roses. Or a check. – Malvolio May 8 '11 at 19:54

Bernie is the corrected (or corrupted, depending on your outlook) spelling of the Old English word byrnie, which is a type of armor used by knights for the purpose of protecting the body when engaged in fighting with swords, lances, dirks, maces, pikes and/or other type of sharp, metal objects used to kill others.

share|improve this answer
Actually, it was not “Old English”. The OED says of byrnie the following: “Sc. variant of ME. brynie, brinie, with metathesis of r. The word was thus brought nearer to OE. byrne, from which however it could not directly come, as this gave only the monosyllabic *byrn, burne, bryn.” – tchrist Jun 26 '13 at 14:53

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.