late 14c., "one hundred," from Latin centum "hundred" (see hundred). The meaning shifted 17c. to "hundredth part" under influence of percent. It was chosen in this sense in 1786 as a name for a U.S. currency unit (the hundredth part of a dollar) by the Continental Congress. The word first was suggested by Robert Morris in 1782 under a different currency plan. Before the cent, Revolutionary and colonial dollars were reckoned in ninetieths, based on the exchange rate of Pennsylvania money and Spanish coin.
updated on October 26, 2017