I am writing some instructions and I want my audience to understand that an amount must be entered in cents / pence / Eurocents / Satoshis etc. Is there a word that describes these small, granular parts of currency?

I'm dealing with non-physical objects, e.g. in an online payments system.


5 Answers 5


They are usually referred to as the minor units of currency, or minor units for short. This refers to such things as pence - UK, cent USA & Eurozone, centimes Switzerland etc.

  • does that make the dollars, euros, etc. major units?
    – DAE
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 9:13
  • @DAE Yes, I'd say either the "major" unit or the "main" unit.
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 12:08
  • “Minor Unit” is the term used in ISO 4217, the international standard for describing currencies. ISO 4217 is where the three-letter currency abbreviations USD, EUR, JPY, etc. come from. ISO 4217 refers to the “main” currency simpy as “units”, with no qualifier.
    – KrisW
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 9:34

According to TFD- change (n)

a. Money of smaller denomination given or received in exchange for money of higher denomination.

b. The balance of money returned when an amount given is more than what is due.

c. Coins: had change jingling in his pocket.

  • 1
    Coins given as change could be equal to or more than 1 Euro, 1 AUD, etc. Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 16:38
  • 1
    In the US, all change is not coins, but all coins are change.
    – bib
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 19:24
  • @bib Yes but, per the question, we're not limited to US currencies or simplified English. Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 21:46

Perhaps specie or the expression in specie. The definition, according to Merriam-Webster:

  • money in coin

  • in specie : in the same or like form or kind ; also : in coin


Coinage is generally made up to represent portions of a the smallest bill (also called a note) currency. IE: The amount of funds to be issued does not equal a whole bill denomination so coins represent that portion. For example: The smallest Euro denomination in paper note form is 5euro ... someone needing to pay 4euro will use coins to transfer the value. (in limited cases the smallest note/bill denomination is represented with a coin and in paper form...US is an example...in these instances the coins are rarely used.)


There is no common term that commonly refers to what you are describing. "Coinage" could be used but it is an imprecise term and people still might not get your intention without explanation. Unfortunately the simplest explanation is simply to say "pence, cents, etc.".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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