Pin Money

Political commentary on social inequality, in an English cartoon from 1849, Political commentary on social inequality, in an English cartoon from 1849,

Pin money is an English term that refers, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, to a small or insignificant sum of money (‘spending money’), to be used for trivial purchases. It formerly referred to money a husband or guardian gave to a woman annually for her personal (dress) expenses (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary).

One of earliest references to pin money comes from a will dated AD 1542 from York (UK), in The Testamenta Eboracensia - A Selection of Wills from the Registry at York. The clause reads: "I give my said doughter Margarett my lease of the parsonadge of Kirkdall Churche… to by her pynnes withal."

By the nineteenth century in the USA, the term pin money referred to supplementary income a woman made by selling her needlework.

In the Netherlands, the term speldegeld ('pin money') dates back to at least the fifteenth century and was used to describe a small sum of money that was added to the price of a product or service for the benefit of the female members of the family.

There are various theories concerning how the term 'pin money' came into being. Basically it would appear that in the fourteenth century pins were very expensive and by English law they could only be sold on the first two days of January. Husbands would give their wives special money to purchase these items. Over time, pins became much cheaper and the money could be spent on other items, but the expression remained.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 23 February 2017).


Last modified on Thursday, 23 February 2017 18:34
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