The Word “Bank” Comes From the Italian Word For Bench fact

Origin Of The Word “Bank”

The word bank likely comes from the Italian word for Bench “banco”, as the first banks were benches in Italian trading centers.[1][2]

Modern banking began as Jews fleeing Spain came to Italian trading centers (piazzas and the Halls of Lombardy) where Italian grain merchants gathered. As the new banking practices merged with the already bustling Italian economy early versions of interest, stock, and insurance were born, and new terms to describe banking practices were too.

The Origin of Banking Related Terms

The terms banking, bankrupt, bill, and broke all refer to money lending and borrowing practices orienting at these benches in the Italian trading centers.

  • Bankrupt or broke: When a banker failed because of actions like a banker speculating with a depositors money and losing it, his bench was sometimes broken by the people; and this is where the terms bankrupt and broke comes from. Specifically, “bankrupt” comes from the Italian phrase banca rotta, or broken bench and broke has the same connotations. See The Origin of the Word Bank
  • Bill: Bankers would offer bank notes, holding money against a “bill.” A billette was a note, a letter of formal exchange, later a bill of exchange and later still, a cheque.

An old image of bankrupt Jews being persecuted by angry citizens with a cat o’ nine tails. Kind of puts it all in perspective, right?

FACT: The Jewish bankers did their business on benches in the pizzas of cities like Lombardy, Venice, and later Florence. Italy had free-republics, trade, and new mathematics that made it a perfect place for the marriage of cultures which led to modern day banking. Learn more about the Birth of Modern Banking.

Interesting Origins of Words: Checkmate, Bank and Canary.

Other Theories For the Origin of the Word Bank

Although the word bank almost certainly comes from the fact banking was done on benches, there is no way to know this for sure.

Another theory posits that bank comes from the Italian word monte which means (mound, heap, or bank).

It is also worth noting that both banks and the word for bench go back beyond Italy in the 12th century, so its possible its roots extend beyond the birth of modern banking.

In old Germanic the word is banki-z, Norse the word is banki, latin banc-us (where the Italian word comes from), etc. See Three Paths to the Word Bank.

Banking Explained – Money and Credit.

Article Citations
  1. Origin Of The Word “Bank”
  2. Banks and Benchs – A Complicated Linguistic Transaction

Considering banking starts in the Italian Pizzas and is done on benches it is hard not to see the correlation between “banco” and bank. That said, it is one of the things we can’t fully prove without a time machine.

Author: Thomas DeMichele

Thomas DeMichele is the content creator behind,,, and other and Massive Dog properties. He also contributes to MakerDAO and other cryptocurrency-based projects. Tom's focus in all...

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