It is never easy to trace the etymology of the words we use every day, in any language. Some of the words would have fascinating stories to tell of their origin and others might seem to have originated out of nothing. If you are familiar with the American way of life, you would know that the U.S. dollar is commonly referred to as “buck”. Although the word is thrown around casually, few seem to be concerned about its origin. There had been attempts to ascribe the origin of the term to the racist history of the country, claiming that the term was used to mention young male slaves, though there is no plausible evidence.
The first U.S dollar was minted in 1792, following the Coinage Act. However, the available evidence traces the history of using “bucks” for denoting the dollars back to a practice before 18th century. In those days, the deerskin, or buckskin, was the prime medium of economic transactions, especially along the frontier areas. Those were the years of revolution, and money was hard to obtain. The buckskin was very valuable, and was used to represent the value of other things. They were exchanged for other commodities and people used the term buck to denote those skins. The buckskin featured prominently in the transactions with the Indians as well.
One of the earliest references to the use of bucks in terms of money can be found in a journal by Conrad Wieser during his travel through the present day Ohio, in which he mentions that someone was robbed of the value of 300 bucks. There is another reference from the same year, which mentions trading a cask of whiskey to native Indians, which is worth 5 bucks.
It is debatable whether a buck meant a single deerskin. Various observations have emerged, explaining that it was according to the quality of the skin. In the case of low quality deerskins, it took a few to form one buck. It seems that the skins of other animals were also in use, but deerskin was the most valuable. After the introduction of state currency, the use of buckskin as a medium of exchange gradually ceased to exist. However, the term buck stayed in popular culture, so did its association with the money.
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