I am looking for a countable noun which can stand for either a coin or a banknote. Currency and money are the only two words I can think of, but not being countable they don't fit what I'm looking for, and they can also be interpreted as other forms of payment, such as credit/debit cards.

Open your wallet, find the [coin or banknote] of highest denomination, and write it down.

Does such a word even exist, or should I settle for using piece of currency or simply coin or banknote?

  • The problem with currency is that the US dollar is a currency, but a US dollar is just currency (zero article, i.e. not "a dollar bill is a currency"). So you could say "highest denomination currency", with no article. You could use legal tender the same way, but currency is probably the most common and familiar. Ditto bill over banknote. – Dan Bron Apr 12 '16 at 20:43
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    I think there is no such word. You will need a phrase. For example, see the Wikipedia article "Legal Tender" which uses phrases such as "coins and banknotes". – MetaEd Apr 12 '16 at 21:53
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    The trouble is you are using denomination in a funny way, and that is seeming to create a problem where there isn't one. Open your wallet, find the highest denomination, and write it down. Denomination is the term that refers to money's value without regards to format. – Phil Sweet Apr 12 '16 at 23:22
  • The term "piece of currency" is nonsense. I would say "the highest value coin or note". In BrE, "note" is a common contraction of "banknote" where the context & meaning is clear; but a "bill" means an invoice or amount to be paid. – TrevorD Apr 12 '16 at 23:46
  • To continue @PhilSweet's thought, you can use denominations -- it's countable. – stevesliva Apr 13 '16 at 0:24

The correct term for a single item of currency, regardless of its shape, is money. Here's the definition:

mon·ey ˈmənē/ noun a current medium of exchange in the form of coins and banknotes; coins and banknotes collectively.

The plural of money is monies (or moneys), so 'money' is not an implied plural. You can (lamentably) have one money in your pocket that may be worth a penny or worth a dollar.

Based on common usage, it would be terribly confusing to say "...find the money with the highest value and write it down". this is an example of correct usage being less clear than colloquial usage.

I think your quote is as accurate and clear as any.

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    But money is not countable. You can't say "take out a money out of your pocket". The goal of the question is to identify a count noun version of the mass (or non-count) noun currency (or money). – Dan Bron Apr 12 '16 at 20:54
  • The word monies (which you use to justify money being countable) is not used for coins and banknotes. In that sense, it is uncountable. – Peter Shor Apr 13 '16 at 16:05

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