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Usury is a term which originally was used to denote the charging of interest, but is also used to express the charging of excessively high interest rates. Usury is derived from the Latin term usura which means "money paid for use".[1] One of the first commentaries on usury[1] can be found in Aristotle's Politics where he expresses his disdain for the practice by saying:

The most hated sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural use of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term usury, which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money, because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of all modes of making money this is the most unnatural.
—Aristotle, Politics

In the Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, lending money at interest was a sin for Christians. Usurers, people who lent money at interest, had been excommunicated by the Third Lateran Council in 1179. Even arguing that usury was not a sin had been condemned as heresy by the Council of Vienna in 1311-12. Christian usurers had to make restitution to the Church before they could be buried on hallowed ground. They were especially detested by the Franciscan and Dominican orders, founded in 1206 and 1216.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk. "Capital and Interest: History and Critique of Interest Theories", 1959, page 10,167.
  2. Niall Ferguson. The Ascent of Money, Chapter 1, p. 31, 35-37. Published 2008, ISBN 9780141035482. Referenced 2012-06-08.