us·​ance | \ ˈyü-zᵊn(t)s How to pronounce usance (audio) \

Definition of usance

3a obsolete : usury
b : interest
4 : the time allowed by custom for payment of a bill of exchange in foreign commerce

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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.

First Known Use of usance

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

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Cite this Entry

“Usance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Sep. 2021.

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