The term usury comes from the medieval Latin u¯su¯ria, which means “usage” and is any charge on the use of money. It has had two distinct, but related, meanings: Originally it meant any form of interest on debt, but as the interest became more socially acceptable, especially since the “Commercial Revolution” beginning in the 13th century, its meaning shifted to refer to excessive interest (though what constitutes excessive remains a matter of controversy and can change over time).


Throughout history, usury has been reviled. Dante Alighieri, in the Inferno, places usurers at the bottom of the seventh circle of hell, below murderers, warmakers, plunderers, tyrants, and suicides. What counts as usury has changed over history, so that what was unjust usury in an early period might, ...

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