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PENNY. The name of an English coin of the value of one-twelfth part of a shilling. While the United States were colonies, each adopted a monetary system composed of pounds, shillings, and pence. The penny varied in value in the different colonies.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in classic literature ?
What good mother is there that would not commiserate a penniless spinster, who might have been my lady, and have shared four thousand a year?
Thus, from town to town, from village to village, Goldsmith wandered, until at the end of a year he found himself back among his countrymen, penniless and alone in London streets.
"I do not need any better name than Tarzan," replied the ape-man; "and as for remaining a penniless vagabond, I have no intention of so doing.
Perhaps he revered his father's practice even more now than ever, seeing that, in the question of making Tessy his wife, his father had not once thought of inquiring whether she were well provided or penniless. The same unworldliness was what had necessitated Angel's getting a living as a farmer, and would probably keep his brothers in the position of poor parsons for the term of their activities; yet Angel admired it none the less.
(of the South Carolina branch), a penniless beauty introduced to New York society by her cousin, the imprudent Medora Manson, who was always doing the wrong thing from the right motive.
Monty alive, penniless, half-witted, the servant of a few ill-paid missionaries, toiling all day for a living, perhaps fishing with the natives or digging, a slave still, without hope or understanding, with the end of his days well in view!
There was a small child there, whose father had been the organist of the village, and who had died penniless. There was no one to look after her, no one to save her from the charity schools and domestic service afterwards.
"I am homeless, friendless, penniless," I went on, getting more hollow at every word.
"If Helen had written the same to me about a shop-assistant or a penniless clerk--"
He saw that his faint and worn appearance attracted the attention of the landlord and his waiters; and thinking that they might suppose him to be penniless, took out his purse, and laid it on the table.
My father left her absolutely penniless. He never saw her again; and he refused to go to her when she sent to him in her last moments on earth.
"I was left on the world, a nameless, penniless outcast, with one fatal inheritance--God knows, I can speak of it without vanity, after what I have gone through!--the inheritance of my mother's beauty.