Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Two Bits

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 26, 2010

Back in 1720, the term “two bits” became part of the language in the American colonies.  Referencing “pieces of eight” when one spoke of “two bits” they meant two pieces of the eight that made up a dollar.

In time, since two pieces of the eight was a quarter of the dollar, two bits was also referred to as a “quarter.”

As with all phrases, in time it came to mean cheap and tawdry as in a two-bit saloon (first recorded use of this meaning was in 1875) and two-bit politicians (first recorded use of this meaning was in 1945).

The first reference to “two bits” meaning something cheap and tawdry was first recorded 1929

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