Reading some older texts recently, I came across

L.-- s.-- d.-- q.

which were obviously Old Money accounting abbreviations. For whatever reason, I had never seen q. before, or had not remembered that I had.

The matter of L.s.d. has been questioned and answered here, so I will not bother with that now. I did not find it simple to confirm that q. stood for farthings as the abbreviation does not seem to have ever been common, and certainly would have little use now.
I had help from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_American_currency#/media/File:US-Colonial_(RI-282)-Rhode_Island-2_Jul_1780_OBV.jpg

making things clear what q. probably meant. Searching farthing produced quadrans. and the q. became obvious. The Greek form of quadrans is rendered farthing in the KJV.
I have only found appearances of q. in 18th Century works, and only involving currency exchange.

My question is when did q become an abbreviation for farthing and was it ever a common abbreviation. I've reached the end of trails on this. I hope someone else can help.

  • I'm more worried about the apparent interchangeability of ſ and f in the picture. I mean, the first f in "pofſeſſor" is clearly an f rather than an ſ.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 19:39
  • The OED isn’t any help. It is listed under Latin abbreviations of q as “quadrans, farthing Obs” (obsolete), but with no dated illustration of usage. (Not surprisingly as it is not a word and the OED doesn‘t quote ledger books and the like.) btw. I would change your title to indicate the context in which you wish the history (as an abbreviation for farthing) and there is no need to capitalize ‘history’ unless you are going capitalize all nouns, which would be a little unfair on little q, which is the subject of your question.
    – David
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 19:40
  • @MrLister — It looks to me as if it is the double ff ligature. Presumably the printers didn't have the double-ſ ligature or picked the wrong one up by mistake. But why are you worried about it? Seems a good question to me, who was around when farthings were still in use (although not farthingales).
    – David
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 19:44
  • @ David Yes, i thought it unfair to "q" not to use a cap, , but q. was causing me problems. Well, I edited.
    – J. Taylor
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 19:52
  • 1
    According to this site nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections/… - Farthings were abbreviated to 'qua', short for 'quandrans', or a quarter of a penny. The word 'farthing' is an old English word meaning 'a fourth-thing'.
    – user 66974
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 20:29

1 Answer 1


Apparently, q. Or qua. was used as an abbreviation for 'farthing' or 'quadrantes' in Latin (a quarter of a penny).

Ths link mentions q. and qua. being used 'in the first half of the thirteenth century'.

Another coin known as a Quadrin or Mite is also a farthing or quarter-penny, Spanish, apparently:

From An Universal Etymological English Dictionary, 1731

QUADRIN, a Mite, a small piece of Money in Value about a Farthing.

From Dictionarium Britannicum edited by Nathaniel Bailey, dated 1730

Quadrin, a Mite, a small Piece of Money in Value about a farthing.

  • 1
    My answer is not illegible! You don't need to read the links, only click on them. I will have a go at embedding them.
    – Jelila
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 15:12

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