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Does the silver have another name?

Does the silver have another name?

Silver is a precious metal that has been valued for its beauty and usefulness for thousands of years. It has gone by many different names throughout history in cultures all across the world. Let’s explore some of the other names that silver has been known by.

Silver’s Origins and Early Names

Silver was one of the first metals discovered and used by humans. The earliest evidence of silver mining dates back to around 3000 BC in Anatolia, which is part of modern day Turkey. This region was known as a source of silver throughout ancient history.

The name “silver” has Proto-Germanic origins and is related to similar words in Old English, Old Norse, Gothic, and modern German languages. Some of the earliest recorded names include the Old English “seolfor” and “siolfor.”

In ancient times, silver was sometimes referred to as “white gold.” This refers to its similar rarity and value to the metal gold, while having a distinctive white or grey hue. The name emphasizes that silver was considered on par with gold as a precious metal.

Silver in Ancient Civilizations

In the ancient Near East, silver was known as “aratrum.” This is a word derived from the Akkadian language spoken in Mesopotamia. Translated, it means “white metal.”

In ancient Egypt, silver was recognized as a precious metal as early as the 4th millennium BC. The ancient Egyptians had their own hieroglyph for silver, “hedj.” The metal held an important role in ancient Egyptian mythology and ritual.

The ancient Greeks and Romans obtained much of their silver from Iberia (Spain) and Anatolia. They had several names for the metal:

Language Word for Silver
Greek Argentum
Latin Argentum

“Argentum” is derived from the Greek word “argyros” meaning silvery or white. This is the root of the chemical symbol Ag for silver on the periodic table of elements.

The Romans measured silver purity in denarii. A denarius was a small silver coin, and they determined fineness based on how many parts per thousand were pure silver.

Silver in Medieval Times

During the medieval period in Europe, silver played an important role in coinage and metalwork. As civilizations emerged across Asia, silver also became prized there.

Some of the notable names for silver from the medieval period include:

Language Word for Silver
Arabic Fidda
Hindi Rup or Chandi
Chinese Yín
Japanese Gin

In medieval England, silver coins were known as “sterlings” or “pennies.” The sterling designation meant they were 92.5% pure silver by weight.

Across Europe, silver coins and bullion were popularly known as “plate” due to silver’s use in metal plates and dishware.

Silver Production and Prominence

With the European colonization of the Americas starting in the 16th century, enormous new sources of silver began to be mined and produced.

The Spanish discovered rich veins of silver in Mexico and Bolivia. The silver mine at Potosi in modern day Bolivia became one of the largest sources of silver in history starting in 1545. Silver from Spanish colonies flowed back to Europe by the ton.

In Europe, silver coins were now popularly known as “pieces of eight” because the Spanish dollar coins could be divided into eight reals.

By the 19th century, silver floods from America resulted in most European nations switching to the gold standard for currency. But silver remained valued as a backing for paper money and for use in coins.

Some names for silver from the 18th-19th centuries include:

Language Word for Silver
Russian Serebro
German Silber

Silver in the Modern Era

Today, silver is as popular as ever for jewelry, investment, and industrial uses. The metal is sometimes referred to by slang terms like “Ag” from its periodic symbol, or simply “bullion.”

Silver investing terminology uses names like “junk silver” for old coins with high silver purity, or “sterling silver” when the purity is 92.5% or higher.

Overall, while silver is still recognized by its classic name today, it has gone by many diverse names through human history reflecting its global prominence as a precious metal. The multitude of names for silver is a testament to its universal value and appeal across cultures over thousands of years.


Silver has accumulated numerous names, terms, and designations throughout its long history as a prized metal. While “silver” has stuck as the standard global name, other cultures and periods had their own special names for it like “aratrum,” “argentum,” “gin,” or “chandi.” The diversity of names reflects silver’s worldwide prominence and value from ancient times through today. Understanding and using some of the classic names for silver can add extra color and flair to discussing this precious metal.