coin of the realm

noun phrase

: the legal money of a country
: something valued or used as if it were money in a particular sphere
information is the coin of the realm in the capitalEloise Salholz et al.

Did you know?

Coin of the realm gained currency in the English language during the 18th century as a term for the legal money of a country. Coin is ultimately from Latin cuneus, meaning "wedge," and entered English, via Anglo-French, in the 14th century with the meaning "cornerstone" or "quoin." By the latter part of that century, the word was being exchanged as a name for a device or impress stamped on flat pieces of metal used as money and, by extension, for the money itself. Realm entered English in the 13th century with the meaning "kingdom." Its spelling is an alteration of Old French reiame, which is based on the Latin word for "rule" or "government," regimen. In time, realm was generalized as the name for any sphere or domain, and coin of the realm came to signify something having value or influence in a particular sphere.

Examples of coin of the realm in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The coalition's and the Afghan government's public criticism of each other should stop; constructive talks based on mutual interests should be the coin of the realm. David M. Rodriguez, Foreign Affairs, 19 Aug. 2011 My son’s catch-and-release treasure hunt was a wake-up call for me—the youth have no love for the coin of the realm. Wes Moss, Forbes, 14 Feb. 2024 TikTok might be the current coin of the realm, but until recently, TV competitions still minted pop stars. Chris Kelly, Washington Post, 12 Dec. 2023 In a business where trust is the coin of the realm, McCarthy holds no currency — and that cost him among Republicans as well. Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 3 Oct. 2023 Authenticity may be the coin of the realm, but everyone could use an editor. Boris Kachka, Los Angeles Times, 30 Sep. 2023 The need users feel for a constant stream of content makes seasonal shifts (helloooo, fall) and their visual signifiers (mom’s cup of coffee or kids clutching those back-to-school signs) the coin of the realm. Emily Heil, Washington Post, 12 Sep. 2023 Instead, potential hazard in the form of probability of an earthquake in a decadal or more timescale is the coin of the realm. Erik Klemetti, Discover Magazine, 30 Aug. 2023 Because notoriety is the coin of the realm in Republican politics at the moment, the episode may not hurt Ramaswamy, indeed may even help him by garnering him more attention. The Editors, National Review, 23 Aug. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'coin of the realm.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1787, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of coin of the realm was in 1787


Dictionary Entries Near coin of the realm

Cite this Entry

“Coin of the realm.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jun. 2024.

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