paper money


Definition of paper money

1 : money consisting of government notes and banknotes

Examples of paper money in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The story takes place in the near future, after a virus spread through paper money on Black Friday wipes out millions in New York. Marcus Jones,, "Netflix picks up The Division movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jessica Chastain," 10 June 2019 Looking for more in-depth coverage on what the future holds for paper money? John Detrixhe, Quartz, "Scotland is on the front line in the fight against “cash deserts”," 31 May 2019 The Currency Act of 1764 upset colonists by banning the creation and use of paper money not issued by Great Britain. Marlena Scott, Teen Vogue, "The Complete History of Money in America, From Pelts to Pennies," 13 Apr. 2018 Many of us are stubbornly clinging to our paper money habits. Town & Country, "Is This the End of Cash?," 28 Jan. 2019 On the other side of the globe, China began using paper money in 1023. Amanda Foreman, WSJ, "The High Cost of Financial Panics," 10 Jan. 2019 Whether a cashless consumer experience is your idea of heaven or a dystopian nightmare, a case against paper money is easy to make. Town & Country, "Is This the End of Cash?," 28 Jan. 2019 In the early days of the United States, before the dollar was king, most paper money was issued... Paul Vigna, WSJ, "Is Bitcoin the Future, or an Echo of a Failed Past?," 19 June 2018 At the hall, only Pitruco Pizza, and branches of Little Baby’s Ice Cream and the Juice Merchant, will take paper money or coins. Rebecca Heilweil,, "Hard to spend your Benjamins at Franklin's Table, Penn's tony new food hall," 29 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'paper money.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of paper money

1691, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about paper money

Statistics for paper money

Last Updated

29 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for paper money

The first known use of paper money was in 1691

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for paper money

paper money


Financial Definition of paper money

What It Is

Paper money is a medium of exchange for goods or services within an economy. It is printed on paper, rather than in coin form.

How It Works

Paper notes are the most generally accepted forms of paper money. In most cases, each country in the world has its own paper money, but in many cases several countries use the same  money (such as the Euro or the U.S. dollar). A country's government designs and manufactures that country's paper money.

Some paper money is fiat money, meaning that it has no intrinsic value. That is, the paper used to create the money is not worth very much in terms of its value as a raw material. Most paper money is fiat money, and its value comes from what it represents rather than what it is. Before 1971, the U.S. dollar was not fiat money -- it was backed by a corresponding amount of gold held with the Federal Reserve.

Why It Matters

Most paper money only has value because people want it. This idea is what made beaver pelts, shells, peppercorns, tulip bulbs and other things into money at various points in history. However, when the demand (or fashion) faded for some of these goods (or more people found they really needed corn instead of beaver pelts), these systems became cumbersome. Paper money solves this problem because it is exchangeable for any good or service that people want (rather than just beaver pelts).

This isn't to say that paper is the only form of viable money today. Quite often, companies use shares of their own stock as money to acquire other companies, and anybody who has ever watched a crime show knows that cigarettes can buy a lot in prison.

Source: Investing Answers

paper money


English Language Learners Definition of paper money

: money that is made of paper : money in the form of bills instead of coins

Comments on paper money

What made you want to look up paper money? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!