Lexicon: Two Bits

twobits two bits (noun)- a quarter of a dollar. During the U.S. colonial era, the Spanish dollar was the most common unit of currency, and the silver real, a coin commonly known as a bit, was worth one-eighth (1/8) of the Spanish dollar. When the U.S. adopted decimal forms of money in 1792, there was no coin worth an eighth of a dollar, but the 25-cent coin was the arithmetic equivalent of two-eights, or two-bits.

The most frequent contemporary usage may be the sports cheer: “Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar. All for (your school name or mascot), stand up and holler.”

American History, Vol. 48, No. 2 June 2013


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