us·​ance ˈyü-zᵊn(t)s How to pronounce usance (audio)
obsolete : usury
: the time allowed by custom for payment of a bill of exchange in foreign commerce

Did you know?

Usance was borrowed from Latin in the 14th century as a word meaning "habit" or "custom." In the late 16th century, its worth was compounded when it became a word for both the lending of money at interest and the interest charged. Both meanings were known to Shakespeare when he was writing The Merchant of Venice (1596). "He lends out money gratis, and brings down [t]he rate of usance here with us in Venice," says the usurer Shylock of the protagonist Antonio. And, later in the play, Shylock tells how Antonio has "rated . . . about [his] moneys and [his] usances." Unexplainably, the currency of these uses plummeted shortly after appearing in the play, only to be revived in the 19th century.

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of usance was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near usance

Cite this Entry

“Usance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jun. 2024.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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